Black Women Laborers

After the Civil War, Black women recognized the opportunity to become wage workers and contributors to society. However, decent wages and respect was fleeting. Black women in the workforce realized quickly that while times were changing, their white employers were staying the same.

Work conditions paralleled that of slavery, and wages weren’t aligned with the work they were expected to do. As a result, Black women gathered in their safe space, creating a group called The Washing Society. By 1881, nearly 3,000 women would join, strike, and use their voices to canvass and protest for better working conditions.

In this episode of Black History In Two Minutes or So hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. — with additional commentary Tera Hunter of Princeton University, we look at how Black women organized to ensure their rights were acknowledged and protected in the workplace.

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Archival Materials Courtesy of:
• Getty Images
• Library of Congress
• The New York Public Library

Additional Archival by:
• Nace Brock Photographic Collection and Related Materials P0044, Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill
• The Louisville Daily Courier

Executive Producers:
• Robert F. Smith
• Henry Louis Gates Jr.
• Dyllan McGee
• Deon Taylor

Senior Producer:
• William Ventura

Series Producers:
• Chinisha Scott
• William Ventura

Executive in Charge of Production:
• Robert L. Yacyshyn

Post Production Supervisor:
• Veronica Leib

Post Production Coordinator:
• Katherine Swiatek

Written By:
• Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Additional Writing:
• Kevin Burke
• Kelsi Lindus
• Chinisha Scott
• William Ventura

• Margaret Metzger
• Anne Yao

• Kevin Burke

Archival Producer:
• Megan Graham

• Zoë Smith

Assistant Editors:
• Patrice Bowman
• Nicholas Mastrangelo

Director of Photography:
• Nikki Bramley
• Nausheen Dadabhoy
• Stephen McCarthy

Graphic Design:
• Anthony Kraus

Special Thanks:
• Daina Ramey Berry
• Sam Hartley
• Elyssa Hess
• Stacey Holman
• Hasan Jeffries
• Peniel Joseph
• Imani Perry

Music By:
• Oovra Music

Be Woke presents is brought to you by Robert F. Smith and Deon Taylor.

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