Where all the BLACK women at?!

by kathleenljackson


I’ve spent the past week immersed in black women’s history and the extreme absence of black women in American history AND African American history is startling. I never noticed it before, I guess, because I had never really read books that specifically address black women’s history, black feminist theory, and primary sources written by women about black life in America. I mean really, how many of you, dear readers, can list 10 historical black women in America? It seems as though the same women are used every Black History Month to pay lip service to the role of black women in American life. In my humble opinion, our historical memory isn’t giving credit where credit is due. This truly hit home for me when I read this passage in the 2nd edition of Michele Wallace’s Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman (New York: Verso, 1990):

For the most part, it is the white male left that is writing the history of the 60s. The most important historical documentation of the 60s coming from the perspective of black participants has been the “Eyes on the Prize” Series of PBS television documentaries, and the books that have followed them, by Washington Post reporter Juan Williams. Not surprisingly, this version of events underplays the contribution of women, and the story of how the Women’s Movement, the Peace Movement and the white male left emerged from the Civil Rights Struggle. (xxii-xxiii)

The “Eyes on the Prize” series was the first documentary I saw on the African-American experience, in my first undergraduate history course, so it has a special place in my heart – I watch it annually. And thinking back on it, it does underplay the contribution of women during that time. I think about the work all those women did on a grassroots-level, all the women who worked hard long before the Civil Rights Movement to have the voice of the African American people heard and I want other people to think about them too. African American women should not be an afterthought in the history books.

Educate yourself about these incredible women!