This article explores the intersection of race, class, and gender to demonstrate how inner-city, crack-addicted black women, in particular mothers, were seen by the American public as the antithesis of the “traditional conservative family values” that emerged politically in the 1980s. Black women addicted to crack cocaine in the 1980s and 1990s were objects of public contempt, largely due to negative media portrayals and the political agenda of the religious New Right. As a result, they faced harsh criticism and systemic mistreatment. Through an examination of a variety of media outlets, legislation, and political agendas, as well as scholarship from fields such as public health, sociology, and criminology, this work orients the mistreatment of crack-addicted women within the greater historical context of both the backlash against women’s rights and the desire to cling to conservative family values established in postwar America.

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