Successfully reported this slideshow.
Your SlideShare is downloading. ×

When Rape was Legal: The Politics of African American Women’s Bodies During the Reconstruction Era

Ad
Ad
Ad
Ad
Ad
Ad
Ad
Ad
Ad
Ad
Loading in …3
×

Check these out next

1 of 1 Ad

When Rape was Legal: The Politics of African American Women’s Bodies During the Reconstruction Era

Download to read offline

Bridget Condie's essay When Rape was Legal: The Politics of African American Women’s Bodies During the Reconstruction Era comprises part of the YHR Senior Essay Edition.

Bridget Condie's essay When Rape was Legal: The Politics of African American Women’s Bodies During the Reconstruction Era comprises part of the YHR Senior Essay Edition.

Advertisement
Advertisement

More Related Content

Advertisement

More from YHRUploads (20)

Advertisement

Recently uploaded (20)

When Rape was Legal: The Politics of African American Women’s Bodies During the Reconstruction Era

  1. 1. uring the 1871 trials of the Ku Klux Klan a general pattern of questioning the witness took place. The typical pattern veers from the “norm” when the testifying woman is asked what the Klan did to her. In trial after trial, a black woman would begin her terribly gruesome story of sexual assault and rape. In front of an all-white and likely all-male court- room, these brave women took the stand to reveal inti- mate truths about what racial violence in the South did to them. The result of their bravery? Justice for their hus- bands and fathers, but none for themselves. In the Reconstruction Era, the Ku Klux Klan often used extreme sexual violence against a man’s wife or daughterstointimidatehimintovotingdifferentlyornot at all. In the case of Harriet Simril, Simril testifies that she was gang raped by Klansmen, who aimed to force her husband into joining the Democratic ticket. All of the questions asked in Simril’s testimony focus on her hus- band and his vote being the motivation behind the vio- lence. When prosecuting attorney David T. Corbin asks the witness to recount the violence she endured, Simril identifies her attackers by name and physically points at them leaving no doubt who they were. However, af- ter this scene, the attorney never mentions these men in the trials again, because the men identified as rapists do not further the ultimate argument that Corbin tried to prove: that the Klan, and more specifically the men on trial, used violence to obstruct black men’s voting rights. Harriet Simril is just one of many black women who tes- tifiedagainstherwhiterapistandfoundnojusticeforher bravery and survival. If these crimes are discussed in grave, irrefutable de- tail in a court of law and no legal action is taken, what does that say about the illegality of rape? In finding jus- tice for oppressed and victimized black men, an injustice is committed against black women. It is tragically ironic. Throughout the many testimonies and examinations, it becomes very clear that the goal of the prosecuting law- When Rape was Legal by Bridget Condie PC’20 Advised by Professor Edward Rugemer Edited by Grace Blaxill PC'22 and Julianna Gross DC'23 1 Black Women and Sexual Violence: Black Women and Reporting Crimes of Sexual Violence.” National Organization for Women, now.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Black-Women-and-Sexual-Violence-6.pdf. ABSTRACT The Politics of African American Women’s Bodies During the Reconstruction Era yersisthevindicationofsuffragerightsofblackmen.The lawyers go to extreme lengths to prove how far members of the Klan went to infringe upon black men’s right to vote,oftenattheexpenseoftherapesurvivors.Theoffen- sive and even assaulting manner in which examinations are done, the abrupt questioning, and their lack of legal interestintherapesleadthereadertooneconclusion:the legal protection or even well-being of black women is not their priority. As a result of the lawyers’ behavior, Harriet Simril and the other raped and sexually assaulted black women did not find justice. The tragic irony is further underscored by the fact that these trials and monumen- tal proceedings were conducted to exemplify how the country had moved on past the era of slavery and legal inequality. According to the National Organization for Women, for every 15 black women who are raped, only one re- ports her assault.1 This staggering statistic illustrates the profound effects the KKK trials are still having on black women in America. Looking at the various threads that combine to make a cloth of history, the treatment of Af- rican American women in these cases and the prosecu- tion’s ulterior motives created a precedent where black women are not taken seriously in court, and, as a result, do not find legal justice. Society’s treatment of rape and sexualassaultisimperativetoitsownbetterment.Itisim- portanttolookbackattherootsofthisinjusticetounder- stand the patterns of the 21st century. It is clear that not much has changed in terms of the safety of the African American woman. The only way to fix this problem is to legitimize the voice of the sexually assaulted woman. It is imperative to know this history and read these court cases so that as a whole, society can begin to correct and fix the faults in our legal system. D Senior Thesis Edition

×