While Howard University sociologist E. Franklin Frazier’s sociological materials have been criticized for contributing to the pathologization of black working-class womanhood, Frazier’s interviews also offer a rich archive from which to cull the complexities of inner life that transcend the instrumental renderings of black pathology and the narrow configurations of black women’s urban migration experiences. Specifically, this archive accentuates interiority and brings into relief conceptions of self as articulated by black poor and working-class women themselves. The African American mothers interviewed for E. Franklin Frazier’s Washington, DC, interwar project on black adolescent personality development took advantage of interviewers’ listening ears, sometimes ignoring specific questions to instead share personal stories and unsolicited political ideologies and analytical frameworks. What comes through are narratives of lived experiences, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that highlight deliberations on sex and sexuality, the institution of marriage, childbearing and childrearing, New Negro conceptualizations of gender, domesticity, and ways in which black women asserted authorial control over their bodies. These articulations suggest (and sometimes exclaim) a desire to speak, a desire for an audience, a desire to be heard and recognized, and demonstrate that black poor and working-class women had a complex, ambivalent relationship to the concepts of both double consciousness and dissemblance.

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