19. March 21 – March 28

As I work towards my first full manuscript, I have been thinking a lot about how I can center the key documents of my research within my chapter structure. To that end, I’ve spend some of this week more closely examined five primary source documents that are well-distributed throughout my narrative. Below, I’ve included some of my reading notes as insight into my research process:

Hope Interview from Princeton

  • When did the “required to prove” speech take place? It seems as if King was in the audience… was this the same as the Spelman speech? Seems unlikely because Hope seems to go out of his way not to mention her by name in the Spelman speech whereas he clearly names her here.
  • Curious about relationship between white superintendent and black teachers and outside reformers like Rev. WJ White who founded public school districts for black communities – what is the power dynamic here? He had the power to promote her, but there’s a certain amount of social distance evident in his position outside the room
  • Placing King’s birthdate back to 1854 actually makes a lot of sense – because then she’s 20 when she graduates from the Normal School in 1874. She left Athens when she was only 12 to live in the Atlanta bubble for very formative years – this must have left quite an impact. She probably would have thought of herself as Atlantan, especially after Felice Swift moved there. 
  • Clues as to King’s status in Athens: her mother was ‘fashionable’, but still worked – at the very least, this seems to indicate that she was free. If her father was a white man and still involved in her life, was this one of the tacit mixed marriages of the period frequently mentioned by Ridgely in Augusta?
  • It is also interesting that Ridgely says her father was “apparently” a white man, and notes her comment on Hope’s color – King’s own skin tone seems to be implied. How might colorism have impacted her rise, and her mindset/vision of what respectability and success looked like?
  • King’s experiences in Augusta are interesting – they speak to the rough transition to freedom during late Reconstruction in the “slum district” and the already rising elite “rusticrats” (I think this is “aristocrat” in dialect).
  • King’s insight into her marriage is particularly helpful for understanding why she might have left the public sphere later on – “My husband was a mean man” who “disliked her activities and tried to stop her.” He evidently failed, at least at first – why would she have married him, and how common was this kind of tension within marriages of the period? I would love to read a cultural history that looks into the nature of romantic relationships in this sphere – maybe this is an aspect of gendered norms beyond the maternal role that I should explore further 

King’s Reflections on the WCTU Convention

  • She begins by outlining a truly ambitious plan – more ambitious than I had previously realized. Within the state, she wanted to visit every Congressional district, set up a Union (with a president that would serve as district organizer, and county organizers reporting to that individual within the district) – this is a complex institution 
  • More than that, however, once she becomes a national organizer, her reception at the Exposition convinces her that she could go to the “Adjoining states” – not just Georgia! She was on her way to becoming a national figure in temperance, a la Thurman, when her health stopped these plans in their tracks
  • King then lists her considerable work within the state – including an impressive number of speeches and organizing visits throughout the state – she mentions establishing Youth and Loyal Temperance Legion groups and introducing Scientific Temperance – this is interesting because she is circumventing the legislation’s failure to mandate this kind of education 

Intemperance As a Cause of Mortality

  • “Facts versus Figures” – what disciplinary tensions underlie this statement?
  • Quotes Doctors – is this to lend authority? Are these doctors on the list of the Committee of 50? 
  • When she claims that any drink habit – excessive or moderate – could lead to ‘sudden death’ – this is classic STI scare tactics. Basically, she’s saying even if you think you’re healthy despite the occasional beer, you could just drop dead from “poison”
  • Her discussion of the physical effect of parental drinking on the child’s temperament is interesting because it gives her authority as a mother – I’m a bit unsure where to put the connection to the rise of eugenic thought in the thesis, but this seems like an obvious connection 
  • Her discussion of alcoholism and disease struggles because her conflation of correlation and causation – she knows she cannot prove that it is the alcohol itself that is resulting in these awful diseases – yet it does not stop her from insinuating that it is so
  • When she talks about alcoholism as a city problem, she’s drawing a line between the Atlanta and Tuskegee Conferences – this is her territory 
  • Interesting to unpack further her discussion of the “ignorant, drunken class of Negroes” because her treatment of their deaths doesn’t really come out sympathetically – she says their death rate wouldn’t bother her EXCEPT for their young age – what? Also it’s very clear that she does not see herself in this class in the slightest – she is talking about something distinctly outside of her circle
  • Her discussion of a reformatory is useful in the way it shows her moving beyond the logic of individual responsibility into a broader understanding of societal forces beyond personal control 
  • Her discussion of “the responsibility of the teacher, the preacher, and the physician” provides an index of the kinds of people she sees as responsible for this work – reinforcing STI: “The preacher or teacher who suffers himself or those whom he serves to be uninformed on this vital question is recreant to his highest trust.”
  • It is interesting that although she sees intemperance as the ultimate cause, she asks only for a reformatory – which would only offset the damage caused by liquor in the first place

Mothers’ Meetings

  • She begins by taking some pretty traditional ideas – that the home, school, and church influence an individual’s “make up,” that the home is the most effecting, and that the mother is the most influential within the home – to conclude something kind of radical: “the destiny of the Negro race is largely in the hands of its mothers”
  • She continues with reference to unspecific statistics – perhaps this felt like a necessity given the setting – but she doesn’t really seem comfortable with using them
  • She talks about the plight of “laboring mothers” without demonizing them – it’s ignorance, not immorality. When she asks “Does this excessive deah rate indicate a corresponding mental and moral decay?” her solution of Mothers’ Meetings seems to suggest no – it’s a lack of opportunity, not a lack of capacity
  • I wonder what the academic establishment would have thought about simplifying their conclusions into palatable chunks for a mother’s meeting?
  • I need to better understand the role of Mother’s meetings beyond this particular context: what other causes would have adopted this tactic?

Du Bois Letter

  • She is clearly still very much in the world of race leadership, as she distributes copies of the Feb 1918 Crisis, collecting subscribers and commenting on its contents 
  • She also mentions that she is getting it to white people – so she’s maybe more integrated racially in Atlanta – if she’s seeing Felton regularly
  • The Felton incident deserves to be mentioned somewhere in the conclusion or end of Chapter 3: what their relationship must have been like! How could King not feel bitterness to the white supremacists who hijacked her movement 
  • Clearly King and DuBois had maintained a personal relationship even after the Sociological Club speech, there is a palpable familiarity and even egalitarian nature to the correspondence
  • The Herndons are the icons of Black Atlanta during the 1870s-turn of the century – thus the death of Adrienne and her family feels like the end of an era
  • Why does King put her “Mrs.” in parenthesis?