Tera W. Hunter and Andreá N. Williams, “African American Marriage in the Twentieth Century: A Conversation”
April 12, 2018
For centuries marital status has been an important social marker, providing access to a variety of legal rights and contributing to a sense of social stability. Further, since marriage has been seen as fundamental to preserving social and familial norms, it has been considered a central element for ensuring socioeconomic success and social respectability among African Americans and others. Two of this year’s Fellows will discuss the fraught history of marriage and marital rights for African Americans—as well as the ways cultural expectations about marriage have shaped the lives of African American women over the past century—with Tania Munz, vice president for scholarly programs at the Center.
Tera W. Hunter is a professor in the History Department and the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University where she specializes in African American history and gender in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her research has focused on African American women and labor in the South during that period. Her most recent book, Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century (2017), explores the fraught history of marriage among African Americans in a time when their unions were not legally recognized. This year, as the Birkelund Fellow at the Center, she is working on a new book which examines how marriage among African Americans in the twentieth century continued to reflect issues of racial disparity in American society.
Andreá N. Williams is associate professor of English at The Ohio State University where she specializes in African American literature and nineteenth-century U.S. literature. Her research interests also address black print culture, periodical studies, auto/biographical studies and U.S. women writers. Her book, Dividing Lines: Class Anxiety and Postbellum Black Fiction (2013), examines the black middle class and class inequality in African American literature between the Civil War and Harlem Renaissance. This year, as an ACLS Frederick Burkhardt Fellow at the Center, she is working on a cultural study of unmarried African American women in the first half of the twentieth century.