A prominent form of voluntary organization in the United States from the nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century, fraternal associations are self-selecting brotherhoods and sisterhoods that provide mutual aid to members, enact group rituals, and engage in community service. Synthesizing primary and secondary evidence, this article documents that African Americans historically organized large numbers of translocal fraternal voluntary federations. Some black fraternal associations paralleled white groups, while others were distinctive to African Americans. In regions where blacks lived in significant numbers, African Americans often created more fraternal lodges per capita than whites; and women played a much more prominent role in African American fraternalism than they did in white fraternalism. Rivaling churches as community institutions, many black fraternal federations became active in struggles for equal civil rights.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)