Boycotts, Buses, and Passes
Black Women's Resistance in the U.S. South and South Africa
A comparative history of the liberation struggles of black women in two countries
In the mid-1950s, as many developing nations sought independence from colonial rule, black women in the American South and in South Africa launched parallel campaigns to end racial injustice within their respective communities. Just as the dignified obstinacy of Mrs. Rosa Parks sparked the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, the 20,000 South African women who marched in Pretoria a year later to protest the pass laws signaled a new wave of resistance to the system of apartheid. In both places women who had previously been consigned to subordinate roles brought fresh leadership to the struggle for political freedom and social equality. In this book, Pamela E. Brooks tells their story, documenting the extraordinary achievements of otherwise ordinary women.In comparing the experiences of black women activists in two different parts of the African diaspora, Brooks draws heavily on oral histories that provide clear, and often painful, insight into their backgrounds, their motives, their hopes, and their fears. We learn how black women from all walks of life—domestic and factory workers, householders, teachers, union organizers, churchwomen, clubwomen, rural and urban dwellers alike—had to overcome their class differences and work through the often difficult gender relations within their families and communities. Yet eventually they came together to forge their own political organizations, such as the Women’s Political Council and the Federation of South African Women, or joined orga-nizations of women and men, such as the Montgomery Improvement Association and the African National Congress, to advance the common agenda of black liberation.By tracing the dual rise of political consciousness and activism among the black women of the U.S. South and South Africa, Brooks not only illuminates patterns that have long been overlooked but places that shared history within the context of a larger global struggle to bring an end to the vestiges of European colonialism.
"Brook's book fits well into the burgeoning comparative and transnational literature on the United States and South Africa that continues to occupy a vibrant corner of interdisciplinary scholarship. . . . It will definitely appeal to those interested in learning about an artist who listened to and admired the common people during the Great Depression. It is a book that definitely belongs in any Texana collection."—The Journal of Southern History
"Brooks gives voice to the determination and tenacity of these women, who were dominated, disrespected and dehumanized. The text reiterates the historical relevance of these women's public, private, and political lives. Brooks's presentation of their passionate humanitarian convictions, increasing political consciousness, and self-determination makes this an excellent book for multiple disciplines and generations."—The Journal of American History
"In Boycotts, Buses, and Passes, Pamela Brooks addresses commonalities between the struggles of South African women and African American women against economic, political, and legal coercion. . . . Using South African and American research, Brooks offers parallel narratives that provide compelling glimpses into the lives of black women in Alabama and South Africa at key moments."—Journal of American Ethnic History