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The Spaces of Segregation

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Abstract:

Sunny Nash’s memoir of growing up in southeastern Texas, Bigmama Didn’t Shop at Woolworth’s, opens with this line: “Despite the imagery suggested by the name Candy Hill, in the 1950s there was little that was sweet or playful about the maze of unpaved roads, narrow trails, and mosquito-infested drainage ditches that led to and from the neighborhood’s rows of mostly shotgun houses with outdoor toilets.” Establishing Candy Hill as her subject, Nash maps the spaces of segregation. Candy Hill is all-black, while neighboring Bryan, where her grandmother Bigmama does not shop at Woolworth’s, excludes blacks from restaurants, restrooms, hospitals, hotels, and dressing rooms. Years after Brown vs. the Board of Education, Nash and her cousins attend all-black schools using books discarded by white students.
Nash makes concrete Henri Lefebre’s assertion in “The Production of Space”: "Social space is a social product - … [T]he space produced in a certain manner serves as a tool of thought and action. It is … a means of control, and hence of domination, of power." Nash certainly exposes the power of segregation to limit lives, but she and her grandmother challenge its control of their thoughts and actions. Bigmama, both black and Comanche, makes up for the schoolbooks with family photos: “[they are] the only way you’re going to know any of your history. …’Cause it’s yet to turn up in any schoolbook.” Candy Hill’s spatial isolation can produce positive values. The Candy Hill women competently make “something out of nothing”: “out of discarded junk, [Sunny’s] mother had carved a new space.” Candy Hill people purposefully “planted ambitions in the minds of their sons and daughters.” As Sunny walks Candy Hill’s segregated streets, women call to her, “Do good in school this year.” Nash reveals the power of “community-making” described by Darlene Clark Hines: “the processes of creating religious, educational, health-care, philanthropic, political, and familial institutions and professional organizations that enabled our people to survive” and black women to “redefine themselves.” Candy Hill residents mount their own challenges to segregation: Bigmama doesn’t shop at white stores in Bryan because she is not allowed to try on clothes or to return them if they don’t fit, but the specific reference to Woolworth’s, with its evocation of the lunch counter sit-ins of the Civil Rights era, suggests that she is also boycotting social spaces that deny her her rights. One of the first black women to attend Texas A & M, in her life and her book, Nash argues for spatial justice and inclusiveness.
When slaveholders increasingly migrated into the Mexican borderlands province of Texas in the 1820s and Mexico responded by trying to outlaw slavery, Texas became a republic and then a slave state, populated largely by immigrants from US southern states. Along with other texts I will discuss, Nash’s book is valuable in revealing the legacy of this historical beginning, in showing “how a place on the map is also a place in history.”
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Graulich, Melody. "The Spaces of Segregation" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Grand Hyatt, San Antonio, TX, <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p417335_index.html>

APA Citation:

Graulich, M. "The Spaces of Segregation" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Grand Hyatt, San Antonio, TX <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p417335_index.html

Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: Sunny Nash’s memoir of growing up in southeastern Texas, Bigmama Didn’t Shop at Woolworth’s, opens with this line: “Despite the imagery suggested by the name Candy Hill, in the 1950s there was little that was sweet or playful about the maze of unpaved roads, narrow trails, and mosquito-infested drainage ditches that led to and from the neighborhood’s rows of mostly shotgun houses with outdoor toilets.” Establishing Candy Hill as her subject, Nash maps the spaces of segregation. Candy Hill is all-black, while neighboring Bryan, where her grandmother Bigmama does not shop at Woolworth’s, excludes blacks from restaurants, restrooms, hospitals, hotels, and dressing rooms. Years after Brown vs. the Board of Education, Nash and her cousins attend all-black schools using books discarded by white students.
Nash makes concrete Henri Lefebre’s assertion in “The Production of Space”: "Social space is a social product - … [T]he space produced in a certain manner serves as a tool of thought and action. It is … a means of control, and hence of domination, of power." Nash certainly exposes the power of segregation to limit lives, but she and her grandmother challenge its control of their thoughts and actions. Bigmama, both black and Comanche, makes up for the schoolbooks with family photos: “[they are] the only way you’re going to know any of your history. …’Cause it’s yet to turn up in any schoolbook.” Candy Hill’s spatial isolation can produce positive values. The Candy Hill women competently make “something out of nothing”: “out of discarded junk, [Sunny’s] mother had carved a new space.” Candy Hill people purposefully “planted ambitions in the minds of their sons and daughters.” As Sunny walks Candy Hill’s segregated streets, women call to her, “Do good in school this year.” Nash reveals the power of “community-making” described by Darlene Clark Hines: “the processes of creating religious, educational, health-care, philanthropic, political, and familial institutions and professional organizations that enabled our people to survive” and black women to “redefine themselves.” Candy Hill residents mount their own challenges to segregation: Bigmama doesn’t shop at white stores in Bryan because she is not allowed to try on clothes or to return them if they don’t fit, but the specific reference to Woolworth’s, with its evocation of the lunch counter sit-ins of the Civil Rights era, suggests that she is also boycotting social spaces that deny her her rights. One of the first black women to attend Texas A & M, in her life and her book, Nash argues for spatial justice and inclusiveness.
When slaveholders increasingly migrated into the Mexican borderlands province of Texas in the 1820s and Mexico responded by trying to outlaw slavery, Texas became a republic and then a slave state, populated largely by immigrants from US southern states. Along with other texts I will discuss, Nash’s book is valuable in revealing the legacy of this historical beginning, in showing “how a place on the map is also a place in history.”


Similar Titles:
“Don’t you love just standing here?”: How the boundaries of self reflect boundaries of urban space, racial segregation, and immigration

Bringing Space Back In: Measuring Segregation Along Three Dimensions and Across Multiple Units of Analysis

Time, Space, and Identity Formation in Prison Segregation

Give Me my Space: Segregation in Chicago’s Slam and Spoken Word Poetry Community


 
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