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Amistad Press

Our Secret Society: Mollie Moon and the Glamour, Money, and Power Behind the Civil Rights Movement by Tanisha Ford (Hardcover)

Our Secret Society: Mollie Moon and the Glamour, Money, and Power Behind the Civil Rights Movement by Tanisha Ford (Hardcover)

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Nonfiction - Biography & Autobiography - Cultural, Ethnic & Regional - African American & Black


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, including with Mollie’s daughter and namesake.

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 historian and cultural critic whose work center on the experiences of black women. Her books include Kwame Brathwaite: Black is Beautiful (which she co-authored); Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl’s Love Letter to the Power of Fashion; and Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul, which won the 2016 Liberty Legacy Foundation Award for Best Book on Civil Rights History from the Organization of American Historians. In addition to her academic writing, she is a regular contributor to The Atlantic, and writes for the New York Times, The Root,, Harper’s Bazaar, and Aperture, and also blogs about issues of race, gender, and popular culture. She was named one of the 100 most influential African Americans by The Root, and was awarded a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, which she pursued at Princeton University. She has received fellowships from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

A vivid behind-the-scenes snapshot of a dazzling era -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"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 
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