Revolution in a minor key: how young black women invented freedom
What was the fate of the first generations of black women born after abolition in America? Struggle: to create autonomous and beautiful lives, to escape new forms of servitude, and to live as if they really were free. This book recreates the radical imagination and wayward practices of these young women by describing the world through their eyes.
Recreating their fragmentary life stories using a combination of archival research and virtuosic literary imagination, a very different vision of the twentieth century emerges, one that offers an intimate chronicle of black radicalism. Here is an aesthetical and riotous history - a revolution in tastes and mores that set the stage for the Jazz Age and the social upheavels. The decades between 1890 and 1935 were decisive in determining the shape of 20th century modernity, and young black women were the unacknowledged agents of that transformation.
'Ambitious, original... a beautiful experiment in its own right, to be set beside the many attempts at living free that Hartman here chronicles with a keen sense of history, imagination, and love.' - The Argonauts
Wayward Lives is a startling, dazzling act of resurrection... These remarkable black women were shamed, scorned, criminalized, studied, diagnosed and then erased from history. Yet now, Hartman challenges us to see, finally, who they really were: beautiful, complex, and multidimensional-whole people - who dared to live by their own rules,
somehow making a way out of no way at all.' - The New Jim Crow
'With urgency and compassion, Hartman rescues the lives of young black women from the margins of history. Wayward Lives is a series of adventure stories that take the reader through the travails and triumphs of a multitude of black women, as they negotiate the perilous path of selfdiscovery at the turn of the twentieth century. In her impeccably researched new book, Hartman breathes glorious life into these true
survival tales with the precision and invention of a master storyteller.' - Sweat and Ruined
Wayward Lives unsorts the archive looking for the errant, the unruly, the gorgeously disarranged paths of fugitive black girls. Fleeing from respectability, the good, the right and the true, the black girls that interest Hartman are everyday revolutionaries or what she calls 'chorines, bulldaggers, aesthetical negroes, socialists, lady lovers,
pansies and anarchists.' This book is a love song to the wayward, a riotous poem, a lyrical homage to the minor.
It changes the way we do history, the way we constitute the political, and makes resistance newly visible in the
ordinary. This book changes everything.' - Female Masculinity and The Queer Art of Failure