Kosary, Rebecca A. (2007-09). To degrade and control: white violence and the maintenance of racial and gender boundaries in reconstruction Texas, 1865-1868. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • Immediately following the Civil War in 1865, African Americans in Texas faced extremely brutal violence perpetrated by whites. This dissertation examines the racial violence that permeated the state during the period of Presidential Reconstruction and demonstrates that violence was the central component in an overall strategy of reasserting white supremacy. The extremely violent atmosphere that existed in Texas during the period was more than a manifestation of white racism and hatred toward African Americans. Although white Texans used violence to injure, kill, or control individuals, violence also served the larger purpose of creating a climate of fear in order to more easily subjugate and control the entire black community. While physical violence and intimidation of black men was rampant throughout the early years of Reconstruction in the state, it was just one tactic used by whites to reassert racial dominance. Black women and children frequently suffered trauma at the hands of white Texans as well. When whites assaulted or raped black women and girls, they also, intentionally or not, took power and masculinity from black men. Violence against black women and children, thus, served the additional purpose of degrading and emasculating black men, in addition to directly injuring the victims themselves. Violence that was explicitly or implicitly sexual in nature was perpetrated against both black men and women and was an essential means of reasserting racial control in Reconstruction Texas. Beyond injury, this type of violence - including forced nakedness, whipping of the "A?A?bare parts,"A?A? and castration - feminized and shamed black men, humiliated and degraded black women, and further provoked fear and silence in the black community. Although sexualized violence was just one weapon in the arsenal used by many white Texans, it played a significant role in the terrorization of the larger black community during Reconstruction.

publication date

  • September 2007