Added: November 5, 2016 – Last updated: November 5, 2016


Author: Elizabeth Thornberry

Title: Rape, Race, and Respectability in a South African Port City

Subtitle: East London, 1870-1927

Journal: Journal of Urban History

Volume: Published online before print


Year: 2016 (Published online: September 2, 2016)


ISSN: 0096-1442 – Find a Library: WordCat | eISSN: 1552-6771 – Find a Library: WordCat

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 19th Century, 20th Century | African History: South African History


Link: SAGE Publications (Restricted Access)


Author: Elizabeth Thornberry, Department of History, Johns Hopkins UniversityAuthor's Personal Website

Abstract: »In late 19th century and early 20th century South Africa, public panics about black men who raped white women (the “black peril”) provided a potent framework for mobilizing racial nationalism. The experiences of women who attempted to prosecute sexual assaults, however, were more complicated than the black peril panics might suggest. In the port city of East London, the English-speaking elite who dominated the judicial system judged women according to norms of respectability derived from middle-class British culture. Both black women and poorer white women, particularly German and Afrikaans speakers, found it difficult to measure up to these standards and, as a result, were rarely believed when they brought forward complaints of rape. This skepticism of rape complaints persisted even when white women accused black men of rape, since the typical victim in such cases was a white woman whose social life already transgressed the racial boundaries required by respectability.« (Source: )

Wikipedia: History of Africa: History of South Africa / History of South Africa (1815–1910), History of South Africa (1910–48)