An engrossing social history of the unsinkable Mollie Moon, the stylish founder of the National Urban League Guild and fundraiser extraordinaire who reigned over the glittering "Beaux Arts Ball,” the social event of New York and Harlem society for fifty years—a glamorous event rivalling today’s Met Gala, drawing America’s wealthy and cultured, both Black and white.
Our Secret Society brilliantly illuminates a little known yet highly significant aspect of the civil rights movement that has been long overlooked—the powerhouse fundraising effort that supported the movement—the luncheons, galas, cabarets, and traveling exhibitions attended by middle-class and working-class Black families, the Negro press, and titans of industry, including Winthrop Rockefeller.
No one knew this world better or ruled over it with more authority than Mollie Moon. With her husband Henry Lee Moon, the longtime publicist for the NAACP, Mollie became half of one of the most influential couples of the period. Vivacious and intellectually curious, Mollie frequently hosted political salons attended by guests ranging from Langston Hughes to Lorraine Hansberry. As the president of the National Urban League Guild, the fundraising arm of the National Urban League; Mollie raised millions to fund grassroots activists battling for economic justice and racial equality. She was a force behind the mutual aid network that connected Black churches, domestic and blue-collar laborers, social clubs, and sororities and fraternities across the country.
Historian and cultural critic Tanisha C. Ford brings Mollie into focus as never before, charting her rise from Jim Crow Mississippi to doyenne of Manhattan and Harlem, where she became one of the most influential philanthropists of her time—a woman feared, resented, yet widely respected. She chronicles Mollie’s larger-than-life antics through exhaustive research, never-before-revealed letters, and dozens of interviews.
Our Secret Society ushers us into a world with its own rhythm and rules, led by its own Who’s Who of African Americans in politics, sports, business, and entertainment. It is both a searing portrait of a remarkable period in America, spanning from the early 1930s through the late 1960s, and a strategic economic blueprint today’s activists can emulate.
Our Secret Society includes 16 pages of never-before-seen photographs.
Tanisha C. Ford is a writer, researcher, and cultural critic working at the intersection of politics and culture. She has forged an international reputation for her groundbreaking research on the history of Black style/fashion and social movements. Tanisha was honored as one of The Root’s 100 Most Influential African Americans. She is currently a professor of history at The Graduate Center, CUNY, where she teaches courses on African American and African diaspora history, biography and memoir, and the geopolitics of fashion. Tanisha lives in Harlem.
'In Our Secret Society, Tanisha Ford expertly uses the extravagant life of Mollie Moon to tell the hidden history of the Civil Rights Movement: a complicated tale of how the movement was funded. Captivating. Gripping. Smart.' -- Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning
'In Our Secret Society, Tanisha Ford chronicles the exhilarating life of Mollie Moon. With cinematic sweep and methodological innovation, Ford brilliantly challenges received narratives of black politics and imaginatively forges new ways of knowing and understanding social movements and the little known but indispensable roles Black women like Moon have played in them. This book is beautifully written, with the passion, wit and style of its subject. A stunning accomplishment.' -- Farah Jasmine Griffin, author of the award-winning Read Until You Understand
'A vivid behind-the-scenes snapshot of a dazzling era.' -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“In Our Secret Society, Tanisha Ford follows the money and reveals an astonishing, untold story of Black women who drove the civil rights movement by commanding the Black freedom financial grid. Following the escapades of the captivatingly brilliant Mollie Lewis Moon…this dazzlingly told rise and fall of the movement’s ‘bag women’ – savvy, sensational, but also burned by sexism – is a tale for our own times about the hazards of mixing politics and philanthropy in the interest of Black liberation.” -- Martha Jones, author of Vanguard
“In Our Secret Society, Mollie Moon finally gets long overdue credit for the critical role she played in the history of the Civil Rights Movement. Writing with care and passion, Tanisha Ford shows how Moon combined her commitment to activism with her love of the social whirl and emerged as a fundraising genius…This is an essential read that broadens our understanding of the centrality of Black women in the movement. Ford’s work is as brilliant, as lively, and as gorgeous as Mollie Moon herself.” -- Jill Watts, author of The Black Cabinet
'This riveting, beautifully-crafted investigation of the money moves of the Civil Rights Movement’s “bag women” shows Tanisha Ford, one of our nation’s top historians, at her absolute finest. Here is the rare text that celebrates the working-class—small dollar donors that made a movement possible—while reminding us of the intellectual prowess and political savvy of the Black women power brokers who put their community’s money to its highest uses: the pursuit of Black freedom.' -- Brittney Cooper, New York Times Bestselling author of Eloquent Rage
[H] Amistad Press / October 24, 2023
0.96" H x 9.34" L x 6.34" W (1.12 lbs) 368 pages