Katherine Mellen Charron, “Activism Beyond the City: Women, Rural Communities, and the Struggle for Black Freedom” | National Humanities Center


Katherine Mellen Charron, “Activism Beyond the City: Women, Rural Communities, and the Struggle for Black Freedom”

July 2, 2020

When mapping the struggle for Black freedom and racial justice, historians have often emphasized the events and organizational efforts that occurred in urban areas, largely led by men. However, in order to take Black Power politics seriously in a more comprehensive fashion, we need to understand how they also emerged from and developed in rural American communities, where the voices and leadership of women were extremely influential.

In this podcast episode, Katherine Mellen Charron, associate professor of history at North Carolina State University, discusses her research into the legacies of local, community-based, rural Black women’s activism in North Carolina. By thinking about how Black Power politics, economics, and culture were affirmed and shaped by women outside of urban centers, we are better able to honor less historically visible forms of political engagement and innovation.

Katherine Mellen Charron
Katherine Mellen Charron, North Carolina State University
Katherine Mellen Charron is a native of North Carolina and a proud product of its public schools. She earned her BA in literature, summa cum laude, from the University of North Carolina at Asheville; her MA in African-American studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison; and her PhD in history from Yale University. Charron is the author of the award-winning Freedom’s Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark, as well as several articles and digital history projects, and is the co-editor of William Henry Singleton’s Recollections of My Slavery Days. Her teaching and research interests include 20th century U.S., African American, southern, and women’s and gender history. Her current project focuses on Evangeline Grant Redding Briley and a network of activists in rural northeastern North Carolina to illuminate how they conceptualized and deployed Black Power and women’s liberation politics in their efforts to affirm community identity and in pursuit of justice and economic self-determination.

Photograph by Bernard Fisher, HMdb.org