Meredith Davis developed her leadership skills as an undergraduate at St. Mary’s College, where she served on search committees for Dean of Students and Director of Minority Affairs, student representative to the Faculty Senate, and Vice President on the Student Government Association Executive Board. After earning her M.A., Meredith went on to a career in education administration, beginning with the Office of Humanities in the Baltimore Board of Education, directing several programs in multicultural education and enhancing opportunities in institutions of higher education, to her current position as Associate Director, Office of Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities at Rutgers University. She has served as instructor or teaching assistant for courses on African American literature, Black political thought, and the Caribbean. Meredith is also a feminist poet who has performed her work in numerous venues.
This dissertation explores the complex lives of African American men in Memphis, Tennessee (1925 – 2006), whose vocations and acts of courage afford alternative perspectives on Black masculinity. Comparing the Jim Crow, post-apartheid, and “postracial” eras. The project documents institutional and socially-sanctioned racism over the course of a century in the U.S. south. Crafting an interdisciplinary methodology that encompasses archival investigations, critical race and gender theories, and analysis of visual culture, I conduct case studies of the heroism of dockhand Tom Lee, the Sanitation Workers Strike of 1968, and the depiction of twenty-first century urban life in Hustle and Flow to disrupt pernicious and pervasive stereotypes of Black men. I demonstrate how a culture of emasculation generated practices of subjugation and systemic oppression, which operated over time and through changing modes of employment and economic dispossession to produce Black men as racialized and gendered subjects. I also illuminate Black men’s creative resistance to these modes of subjugation, identifying diverse means devised by Black men who struggled against great odds to build lives of dignity and win public respect.