Cover image for Bitter fruit : African American women in World War II
Title:
Bitter fruit : African American women in World War II
Author:
Honey, Maureen, 1945-
Publication Information:
Columbia [Mo.] : University of Missouri Press, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
xix, 401 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Chiefly material reprinted from The crisis, Opportunity, Negro digest, and Negro story.
Language:
English
Contents:
War work -- Racism on the home front -- The double victory campaign -- Popular culture and the arts.
Added Author:
ISBN:
9780826212429

9780826212658
Format :
Book

Available:*

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D810.N4 B4 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating
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D810.N4 B4 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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D810.N4 B4 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ
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Summary

Summary

Despite the participation of African American women in all aspects of home-front activity during World War II, advertisements, recruitment posters, and newsreels portrayed largely white women as army nurses, defense plant workers, concerned mothers, and steadfast wives. This sea of white faces left for posterity images such as Rosie the Riveter, obscuring the contributions that African American women made to the war effort. In Bitter Fruit, Maureen Honey corrects this distorted picture of women's roles in World War II by collecting photos, essays, fiction, and poetry by and about black women from the four leading African American periodicals of the war period: Negro Digest, The Crisis, Opportunity and Negro Story.

Most appearing for the first time since their original publication, the materials in Bitter Fruit feature black women operating technical machinery, working in army uniforms, entertaining audiences, and pursuing an education. The articles praise the women's accomplishments as pioneers working toward racial equality; the fiction and poetry depict female characters in roles other than domestic servants and give voice to the bitterness arising from discrimination that many women felt.

This anthology contains works from more than one hundred writers, the majority of them African American. Of particular note are poems and short stories anthologized for the first time, including Ann Perry's first story, Octavia Wynbush's last work of fiction, and three poems by Harlem Renaissance writer Georgia Douglas Johnson. Uniting these various writers was their desire to write in the midst of a worldwide military conflict with dramatic potential for ending segregation and opening doors forwomen at home.

Traditional anthologies of African American literature jump from the Harlem Renaissance to the 1960s with little or no reference to the decades in between. Bitter Fruit not only illuminates the literature of these decades but also presents an image of b


Summary

Despite the participation of African American women in all aspects of home-front activity during World War II, advertisements, recruitment posters, and newsreels portrayed largely white women as army nurses, defense plant workers, concerned mothers, and steadfast wives. This sea of white faces left for posterity images such as Rosie the Riveter, obscuring the contributions that African American women made to the war effort. In Bitter Fruit, Maureen Honey corrects this distorted picture of women's roles in World War II by collecting photos, essays, fiction, and poetry by and about black women from the four leading African American periodicals of the war period: Negro Digest, The Crisis, Opportunity, and Negro Story.

Mostly appearing for the first time since their original publication, the materials in Bitter Fruit feature black women operating technical machinery, working in army uniforms, entertaining audiences, and pursuing a college education. The articles praise the women's accomplishments as pioneers working toward racial equality; the fiction and poetry depict female characters in roles other than domestic servants and give voice to the bitterness arising from discrimination that many women felt. With these various images, Honey masterfully presents the roots of the postwar civil rights movement and the leading roles black women played in it.

Containing works from eighty writers, this anthology includes forty African American women authors, most of whose work has not been published since the war. Of particular note are poems and short stories anthologized for the first time, including Ann Petry's first story, Octavia Wynbush's last work of fiction, and three poems by Harlem Renaissance writer Georgia Douglas Johnson. Uniting these various writers was their desire to write in the midst of a worldwide military conflict with dramatic potential for ending segregation and opening doors for women at home.

Traditional anthologies of African American literature jump from the Harlem Renaissance to the 1960s with little or no reference to the decades between those periods. Bitter Fruit not only illuminates the literature of these decades but also presents an image of black women as community activists that undercuts gender stereotypes of the era. As Honey concludes in her introduction, "African American women found an empowered voice during the war, one that anticipates the fruit of their wartime effort to break silence, to challenge limits, and to change forever the terms of their lives."


Author Notes

About the Editor: Maureen Honey is Professor of English and Women's Studies at the University of Nebraska. She is the author of several books, including Creating Rosie the Riveter: Class, Gender, and Propaganda during World War II and Shadowed Dreams: Women's Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance.


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Honey has collected essays, short stories, and poems that convey the pain, frustration, and anger suffered by black women during World War I, women who have been overlooked in the heroic portrayals of that war. Much of the material is reprinted from black publications of the time: The Crisis, Opportunity, Negro Story, and Negro Digest. While the war opened work and career opportunities for white women, black women saw only marginal improvement in their role as the nation's domestics. Like black men, they were relegated to the dirtiest, least desirable, and most dangerous jobs. And though white women looked forward to a return to domesticity after the war, black women faced an uncertain future with embittered men who had fought a war for freedom in Europe while blacks continued to face racism at home. The collection conveys the sacrifice and service rendered by African Americans in the midst of continued discrimination. Among the authors included in the collection are James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Chester Himes, and Gwendolyn Brooks, as well as factory workers. --Vanessa Bush


Booklist Review

Honey has collected essays, short stories, and poems that convey the pain, frustration, and anger suffered by black women during World War I, women who have been overlooked in the heroic portrayals of that war. Much of the material is reprinted from black publications of the time: The Crisis, Opportunity, Negro Story, and Negro Digest. While the war opened work and career opportunities for white women, black women saw only marginal improvement in their role as the nation's domestics. Like black men, they were relegated to the dirtiest, least desirable, and most dangerous jobs. And though white women looked forward to a return to domesticity after the war, black women faced an uncertain future with embittered men who had fought a war for freedom in Europe while blacks continued to face racism at home. The collection conveys the sacrifice and service rendered by African Americans in the midst of continued discrimination. Among the authors included in the collection are James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Chester Himes, and Gwendolyn Brooks, as well as factory workers. --Vanessa Bush


Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
A Note on the Textp. xvii
Introductionp. 1
Section I Woman Welder, the Crisis, April 1942p. 34
War Workp. 35
Section 2 A Wac, the Crisis, September 1942p. 126
Racism on the Home Frontp. 127
Section 3 Riveters, Opportunity, Spring 1945p. 256
The Double Victory Campaignp. 257
Section 4 Singer Lena Horne, the Crisis, January 1943p. 316
Popular Culture and the Artsp. 317
Appendixp. 381
Bibliographyp. 383
Index to Authorsp. 391
Index to Titlesp. 395
Creditsp. 399
About the Editorp. 401
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
A Note on the Textp. xvii
Introductionp. 1
Section I Woman Welder, the Crisis, April 1942p. 34
War Workp. 35
Section 2 A Wac, the Crisis, September 1942p. 126
Racism on the Home Frontp. 127
Section 3 Riveters, Opportunity, Spring 1945p. 256
The Double Victory Campaignp. 257
Section 4 Singer Lena Horne, the Crisis, January 1943p. 316
Popular Culture and the Artsp. 317
Appendixp. 381
Bibliographyp. 383
Index to Authorsp. 391
Index to Titlesp. 395
Creditsp. 399
About the Editorp. 401