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Anne C. Fleming
Georgetown University (Washington, DC 20057-0001)
Household Borrowing and Bankruptcy in Jim Crow America, 1920-1960

Research for a book on household borrowing, bankruptcy, and credit relief during the Jim Crow era.

Although an extensive literature documents the history of racial disparities in home mortgage lending, we know very little about how race shaped household access to everyday forms of credit and debt relief in the first half of the twentieth century. This book project will describe and compare the experiences of black and white workers who took out personal loans or bought goods on credit in the United States during the Jim Crow era. Using previously unexamined bankruptcy court records, it will examine how urban working-class households organized their financial lives and navigated the shifting matrix of legal rules and institutions that governed credit relationships and debt forgiveness. More broadly, it seeks to explain what the practices of incurring debt and seeking debt relief revealed to these wage workers, only one or two generations removed from slavery, about the meaning of freedom and self-ownership in a modern capitalist society.

Project fields:
African American History; Economic History; U.S. History

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2020 – 8/31/2020