Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Grey Gundaker


African American women have been absent from much of the writing on consumption and the making of modernity. This dissertation responds to these absences, using dress, a highly visible form of consumption, to examine how African American women in Cleveland, Ohio experienced modernity through the culture of consumption from 1890-1940, in the context of urbanization, migration, and the Great Depression.;In looking at African American women's dress during this period, this dissertation will explore the clothed body not simply as a theoretical abstraction, but part of a lived experience in which production and consumption are not mutually exclusive. This will help illuminate the ability of African American women to find a sense of affirmation within oppressive systems.;African American women in Cleveland seized on the opportunities provided by dress and its related consumption to construct a modern black female identity that simultaneously accepted and contested dominant culture's notions of femininity. However, African American women were not a monolithic group, so these constructions differed across geographic origins, class, and religious lines. African American's women's consumption also provided them with avenues for developing a sense of community that led to the creation of autonomous black spaces centered around dress and consumption. These spaces were essential to the self-definition and self-sufficiency that defined the New Negro.



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