Jane Dailey believes sex was central to the American
civil rights movement. And now the Johns Hopkins associate
history — who calls sex the "lynchpin of
segregation" — has been awarded a Guggenheim
Fellowship to prove it.
As one of about 185 artists, scholars and scientists
to receive the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation's
80th award, Dailey will use the funds to take a leave from
Johns Hopkins to finish her second book, Sex and Civil
Rights, which will be published by Harcourt.
"The book puts issues of sex, particularly interracial
sex, at the center of the story of the modern civil rights
movement," she said.
Dailey was awarded more than $30,000, and Johns
Hopkins will match the funds so that she can use the next
academic year to finish the book.
Of the 3,269 applicants, 185 fellows were selected, in
everything from poetry to physics. "It's an incredible
honor; daunting, actually," said Dailey, who is the mother
of an 11-year-old son and is married to Johns Hopkins
history professor David Nirenberg.
Dailey hopes to bring out an oft-ignored element in
history: the role of sex in American racial segregation of
the early 20th century.
"During this period, African-American rights were
bound — both in terms of law and in the white
imagination — to the question of interracial sex,"
she said. "Yet civil rights historians have ignored sex and
seen it as unrelated to the broader campaign for equal
Far from underestimating the role of interracial sex,
civil rights activists skirted the subject because of its
centrality and sensitivity, she said.
"In a world in which a young black boy like Emmett
Till could be murdered for whistling at a white woman, sex
was the very last topic supporters of black equality wanted
to discuss," she said. "Rather than attack the sexual
barrier openly, civil rights proponents developed
strategies to erode segregation around the margins."
Dailey hasn't always been interested in Southern civil
rights, she said. She grew up in California, far from the
heart of the civil rights movement.
"I didn't really know anything about the South until I
went to graduate school," she said. And even then, she
stumbled into history of segregation and the 19th century
by what she termed an "accident."
"I went to graduate school at Princeton to do
20th-century history, but the 20th-century history
professor retired," she said.
Dailey began her teaching career at Rice University,
where she spent six years before coming to Johns Hopkins
three years ago.
She has written another book, Before Jim Crow: The
Politics of Race in Post-Emancipation Virginia, and
co-edited Jumpin' Jim Crow: Southern Politics from Civil
War to Civil Rights. She is an American Council of
Learned Societies Fellow and a Prize Fellow at the American
Academy of Berlin.
The Guggenheim Fellowship Awards recognize artists,
scholars and scientists who show past achievement and
promise for future accomplishment. Since 1925, the
foundation has granted more than $230 million to more than
Jessica Valdez is an intern in the
Office of News and