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Congratulations Lacey Guest!

History MA student Lacey Guest has received a 2017-18 CSWS Research Grant Award for her project “Magic and Power: Educating African-American College Students in the Science of Marriage, 1920s-1960s.”

In 1928, sociologist Ernest Groves’ The Marriage Crisis served as a call to action for educators concerned about the state of American marriage. During the interwar period, courses on marriage spread to hundreds of public and private colleges, universities, and teaching schools.  This marriage education movement aspired to teach American youth what to expect in marriage, but its most important achievement may have been to provide researchers with sexual histories and other data that sustained a version of white, middle-class (hetero)sexual ideology that updated its Victorian predecessor.  Rather than emphasizing an ideology of procreative and passionless sex within marriage, educators stressed the importance of a satisfying sex life that redefined modern marriage as one of companionship. This new sexual ideology, firmly rooted within white, middle-class ideals of marriage and family, now based its moral legitimacy on science.

Little is known about the marriage courses offered in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and yet they were. Gladys Groves, Ernest Groves’ wife, established marriage courses at several HBCUs in central North Carolina.  This project illuminates the experiences of Black students in Gladys Groves’ courses and explores their encounter with dominant marriage ideals. It also documents the leadership of African-American sociologist, Joseph S. Himes at the North Carolina College for Negros in Durham.  This project will fill large gaps in scholarship and facilitate a more complete understanding of how sexuality, race, gender, and class shaped the intersection between marriage education, sex research, and sexual ideology from the 1920s through the 1960s.