SWW DTP PGR Liz Barnes gives the University of Reading Fairbrother Lecture: Women’s Voices: From Slavery to the #MeToo Movement

The Fairbrother Lecture is a University of Reading public lecture named after Jack Fairbrother who in 1929 became the first student to be awarded a PhD from the University of Reading. The Fairbrother Lecture is an annual event at which a Reading doctoral researcher presents their research to a wider audience.

SWW DTP post graduate researcher Liz Barnes recounted her research journey linking the history of sexual violence in the nineteenth-century United States to the #MeToo wave of revelations. She explored how the pattern of progress followed by sustained backlash that occurred after the American Civil War has echoes in the current moment. Liz’s home institution is the University of Reading; she is co-supervised at Cardiff University.

The end of the American Civil War offered emancipated African Americans equal protection under the law for the first time – including granting black women the right to bring rape charges against white men. Similar to #MeToo movement of recent times, the period saw an escalation of disclosures of sexual violence, with black women seizing upon the opportunities that freedom gave them to redefine their past abusive relationships with white men.