Black Women in America, Second Edition
Prefaces to first and second editions
Preface to the Second Edition
The second edition of Black Women in America is both a celebration and an acknowledgment of the magnificent scholarship that now exists in African American women's historical studies. A single generation of scholars made a hard and often painful story so imaginatively alive that students and readers of all backgrounds draw inspiration from our achievement. This second edition advances black women's history by making history transformative. That is, the history of black women in America possesses elements shared by people of all colors and national origins, especially those who have experienced marginalization, exploitation, and oppression. Black women's history and the significant lessons it entails must reach and speak to a global audience, across divides of race, class, gender, and region. This second edition of Black Women in America meets that challenge.
Since the publication of the initial encyclopedia, a decade ago, historians and writers in diverse genres have produced scores of illuminating books that explore the lives and experiences of black women. These works, many of them prizewinning studies, filled many of the voids identified by contributors to the first edition. There was so much about black women that we didn't know; too many black women had been lost to, marginalized within, or excluded from the historical record of the American civilization. Others were shadowy figures, more mythical than real. We revered them without question, but lacked a deep understanding of their contributions and the appropriate historical context that shaped their deeds and thoughts. For example, in 1993 no adult biography existed of the remarkable leader of Underground Railroad legend, Harriet Tubman. Today there are three major Tubman biographies from which to choose, and other marvelous studies of Sojourner Truth, Madam C. J. Walker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and many others.
This second edition includes a larger number of substantial topical essays. The length of some of these fresh and provocative thematic and theoretical essays is a feature worthy of notice. The authors were given the space to explore all of the ramifications and complications inherent to large topics such as "Slavery," the "Jim Crow Era," "Class," and the social construction of race. Other topics were separated into manageable parts, and each part was assigned to a specialist in the field. We divided some big subjects into chronological periods and others were treated in a series of related essays from different perspectives. For example, see the series of essays probing the experiences of black women in the military across the centuries ("Revolutionary War," "Civil War," "World War I," "World War II," "Vietnam," and "Military, Black Women in the"), and those entries examining resistance movements ("Political Resistance," "Legal Resistance," "Civil Rights Movement," and "Civil Rights Organizations"). Other entries allow us to chart changes in black women's status over time-as in the entries detailing black women's work as educators ("Educators, Early," "Educators, Modern," and "Education"). Another group of entries pays close attention to black women's organizational lives in the "National Association of Colored Women," the "Universal Negro Improvement Association," the "Women's Political Council," and the abolitionist and suffrage movements. The new Black Women in America, therefore, contains essays that explore black women's experiences throughout the entirety of American history.
It is important to learn the identities and to appreciate the experiences of the women who triumphed in their individual arenas, but it is equally essential to understand the historical context and major events that shaped their public and private lives. The need for powerful forms of analysis of the women we include in the encyclopedia influenced the tone, design, and vision of this edition of Black Women in America. Foremost was the desire to convey the soul of black women's lives, to allow their voices to be heard resoundingly. The encyclopedia brings together a vast amount of new knowledge that effectively demonstrates the centrality of black women to American society, economy, and culture and underscores the critical role they played in the survival and transformation of their communities. Doing so required some design innovations, or modifications to the first edition. We focused both on aesthetics and on making the material as accessible as it is inviting, so the second edition makes generous and creative use of a number of sidebars, special features, and phenomenal photographic images. These stylistic innovations distinguish this new edition while conveying factual details and broader contextual information about hundreds of additional African American women. While more than three hundred women receive distinct biographical entries, special features are used to indicate those women who were equally representative and outstanding, and who are certainly worthy of sustained investigation in the future.
The explosive production of new knowledge and sophisticated theoretical analyses about black women in the professions, in athletics, politics, higher education, and the arts, as entrepreneurs, as homesteaders on the western frontiers, as agricultural, domestic and industrial workers, as leaders of social justice organizations, as bedrocks of religious institutions, and as women in the service of the United States military has expanded our intellectual universe. The most important thing that Black Women in America has to offer to all of us is its profound comprehension of the power of history. Black women's history is enormously constructive, sobering, engaging, pleasurable, and empowering. Black Women in America, Second Edition, is a long, unabashed meditation on the voices, souls, travails, and triumphs of women who have given much and who are long overdue for recognition and celebration.
Darlene Clark Hine and the Editors
Preface to the First Edition
This historic encyclopedia project was initiated to reclaim and to create heightened awareness about individuals, contributions, and struggles that have made African American survival and progress possible. We cannot accurately comprehend either our hidden potential or the full range of problems that besiege us until we know about the successful struggles that generations of foremothers waged against virtually insurmountable obstacles. We can, and will, chart a coherent future and win essential opportunities with a clear understanding of the past in all its pain and glory.
History has its own power and black women more than ever before need its truths to challenge hateful assumptions, negative stereotypes, myths, lies, and distortions about our own role in the progress of time. Black women need to know the contradictions and ironies that our unique status presents to a country founded on the proposition that all men are created equal and endowed with the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and opportunity to pursue happiness. Yet it is not enough only to know about the injustices and exploitation black women endured. We also owe it to ourselves to experience the thrill of knowing about the heroism of Harriet Tubman, share in the pride of Madam C. J. Walker's business acumen, and delight in the tremendous creative artistry of a pantheon of black women writers, performers, and thinkers. As we garner the inspiration contained in past and present black women's lives, we acquire the power to take history further and the will to use the power of history to construct a better future. The realities of history as unearthed and presented in the essays, photography, and biographies in these volumes promise to liberate us all from ignorance, intolerance, and apathy, our most formidable enemies in this postmodern world.
My personal odyssey toward editing this historic encyclopedia of black women in America represents over a decade of reflection, research, and writing. When I first became a historian, few of my colleagues considered black women as worthy of separate and distinct study. The generic black was male and the generic woman was white. Black women found no space in the history books and in 1975 few questioned their absence. My transformation into a historian of black women began rather inauspiciously in 1980 with a telephone call from Shirley Herd, an Indianapolis primary school teacher. Inasmuch as this call shook the foundations of my career as a scholar, it is only fitting that I now recapture the conversation.
I was sitting in my home in West Lafayette, Indiana, where I was an associate professor of American history at Purdue University. I was, as my mother would say, minding my own business. The telephone rang. The voice on the other end identified herself as Shirley Herd, president of the Indianapolis section of the National Council of Negro Women. In response to her query, I indicated that, yes, I am Darlene Clark Hine, the historian. Herd then informed me that she was calling to ask me to write a history of black women in Indiana. Though this was without question the strangest request I had ever heard, I remember thinking that her call presented me with an excellent opportunity to explain to a lay person how we scholars work. In a patronizing manner, I proceeded to explain to her that she could not call up a historian and order a book the way you drive up to Wendy's to order a hamburger. Herd remained silent as I launched into a long description of how historians select a topic, undertake years of research in libraries and archives, prepare a draft manuscript, submit it to a publisher, and with luck have it accepted, pending revisions. If it is rejected, then you send it to another press until you hit pay dirt. I added that the entire process takes several years, often as many as ten, and in some cases even longer.
To her credit, Herd was patient (even tolerant) of my thinly veiled arrogance. She stubbornly insisted, however, that she wanted me to write a book on the history of black women in Indiana. At her insistence, I thought it best to take a different tack. It was clear that I was not getting through to her, so I elaborated that I could not write such a book because I did not know anything about the history of black women. I had never studied about them in all the history courses that I had taken as an undergraduate student at Roosevelt University in Chicago where I earned my BA in 1968, nor had I thought about black women during my entire graduate study at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, where I earned my PhD in 1975. I tried to impress upon Herd that the only black women whose names and exploits I had ever heard of throughout my formal education were Phillis Wheatley, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth. I then declared that it was impossible to write any history of black women because to my knowledge there were no manuscript collections or other primary documents and sources in the libraries and archives. I added that no one could write a history of black women without records. That Herd's response floored me is an understatement. She spoke, and I pictured her in my mind's eye with her hand on her hip, "Now, let me get this straight. You are a black woman?"
I said, "Yes."
And she continued, "You are a historian?"
Then she exploded, "You mean to tell me that you can't put those two things together and write a history of black women in Indiana?" Before I could reply, she let loose. "About the sources, the members of the Indianapolis section of the National Council of Negro Women just spent the last two years collecting the papers and records of black women from across the state. We have all the sources you need. We could write our own history book, but this will not change things because we don't know what their lives mean in relation to everybody else in this society. I do know that I am sick and tired of teaching social studies and telling my students all that white men, black men, and white women have done and never having anything to say or teach about black women. So you are going to write us something so that we can change the history books."
I knew then that I had no recourse other than to invite Herd to bring me the records that she and her club members had collected. The following Saturday Herd and her best friend, Virtea Downey, another primary school teacher, arrived at me house in a white station wagon loaded with dozens of boxes filled with every conceivable type of record. They put the boxes on my living room floor, we talked, and as they went out the door, Herd paused and said, "We'll be back in six months for our book."
It took me six months to go through and to arrange the material. They had collected diaries, obituaries, club minutes, church programs, newspaper clippings, rent receipts, photographs, family Bibles, brochures, posters, typescript histories, marriage licenses, ledgers, and letters. As I sifted through the mountain of paper, I felt as if I had discovered another universe. The records revealed a history of black women's activism and agency. These community builders and religious workers had created and helped to sustain the entire institutional infrastructure of black life and culture in disparate communities across the state. Black women in Indiana had founded schools and settlement houses, provided welfare for orphaned children, homes for the aged, clinics for the sick, and money for scholarships. They were tireless political workers, as well as nurses, teachers, social workers, and librarians on the one hand and domestic servants, laundresses, and beauticians on the other. Black churches were utterly dependent on their fund-raising labors. They organized celebrations, festivals, balls, symposia, lectures, and recitals. How could I have been so blind and ignorant of the contributions and significance of black women to the survival of black America?
Though I learned much from the documents and did write the book, When the Truth Is Told: Black Women's Community and Culture in Indiana, 1875-1950 (1981), questions about the nature and politics of history hounded me. For the first time I thought seriously about how historians determine what is relevant and important, who merits inclusion and discussion, and what constitutes legitimate evidence in the construction of historical narrative. The women were pleased with When the Truth Is Told and Herd thought the subject closed, but my relief soon gave way to guilt. I knew that I had not addressed the fundamental problem that had provoked the call from Herd.
As a historian, I knew that the surest way to change the writing of history was to make accessible abundant archival sources. A few months after the publication of When the Truth Is Told, Herd, Downey, and the other council members returned to the original donors every document so painstakingly collected. Thus the records that are so essential to historians were again to be stashed away in basements, attics, closets, drawers, and shoe boxes.
Finally, in 1982, I called Herd. I described my feelings of guilt and pain and asked her to help me start over again, but this time the objective would be to create a permanent black women's history archive. Herd, Downey, and a young white male historian at Purdue University, Patrick Biddleman, and I initiated the Black Women in the Middle West project. We secured a $150,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) which, among other things, facilitated the development of a network of over 1,500 midwestern women and men, black and white, academics and community-based individuals who actually identified and amassed substantial paper and photographic records pertaining to the lives of black women. Initially the project aimed to collect records from and about black women in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The NEH grant stipulated, however, that we concentrate only on two states. We selected Illinois and Indiana and worked closely with the archivists at the Chicago Historical Society, the Illinois State Library, and the Indiana Historical Society. These and other agencies received the approximately 300 different record collections gathered during the eighteen months of this historic reclamation project.
As the Black Women in the Middle West project evolved, so did my commitment to writing black women's history. In 1983, I coordinated a major conference sponsored by the American Historical Association and edited the papers presented, The State of Afro-American History, Past, Present, and Future (1986). The only essay included in the volume that was not delivered at the conference was the one I wrote, "Lifting the Veil, Shattering the Silence: Black Women's History in Slavery and Freedom." The members of the planning committee agreed that the volume would benefit from having an essay devoted exclusively to black women's history and that it should stress the need for more work in this area. At that time, at least six black women scholars were already at work on what would become significant groundbreaking studies in black women's history. Many of these scholars belonged to the newly formed Association of Black Women Historians, and they joined me on the advisory board of this historical encyclopedia project.
When Shirley Herd called in 1980, I was involved in researching the history of black Americans in the medical profession. I had collected scattered references on black women nurses, but the primary focus of my study was black male physicians. My first book, Black Victory: The Rise and Fall of the White Primary in Texas (1979), had contained scant mention of any black women. In the aftermath of the Black Women in the Middle West project everything changed. Within a couple of years my research and writings switched from medicine to nursing. In 1989, I published Black Women in White: Racial Conflict and Cooperation in the Nursing Profession, 1890-1950. My scholarship had been transformed.
The transformation and culmination of my work on black women is witnessed in my two collaborative projects with Ralph Carlson, president of Carlson Publishing. By the time Carlson contacted me in 1987, I had left Purdue University to become John A. Hannah Professor of History at Michigan State University. Carlson invited me to be the editor of a series of essay collections in black women's history. Again, my first response was ambivalence. I knew a series of such books would greatly facilitate future research on black women's history. I doubted, however, that more than fifty first-rate articles existed. To my surprise and delight we located close to 250 articles-an impressive testament to the volume and quality of work completed in the past decade. The sixteen volumes of Black Women in United States History (1990) benefited from the advice and assistance of associate editors Elsa Barkley Brown, Tiffany Patterson, and Lillian Williams, and the research assistance of Earnestine Jenkins.
At this juncture it would be easy to conclude that black women's history is alive and flourishing and that our goals have been achieved. While much has been accomplished in a remarkably short period, troubling and tiresome problems remain. It is especially irritating these days to read any scholarly rationalization as to why black women's history is not addressed in women's history or in African American history books and courses. Some white women historians insist that they do not know how to deal with questions of race. Likewise, some African American male historians persist in avoiding gender issues and the intersections of gender constructions with those of race and class. In most general U.S. history survey texts, black women are never mentioned or at best are relegated to marginal roles in history. In popular culture, negative and demeaning stereotypes of black women abound. In political discourse, black women are all too often villainized as the ubiquitous welfare queens or mothers of illegitimate, impoverished, and delinquent children. Daily bombardment of negative images, too little hope combined with too many barriers to enumerate, adversely affects the self-esteem of young black girls. Too often, their caretakers are equally vulnerable to relentless assaults on their dignity as human beings, leaving few internal and external resources to do battle with multidimensional oppression. Before sharing my final thoughts about the objectives of this encyclopedia, I would like to thank my family. I am the sum of what I believe and do. Several significant individuals, however, played pivotal roles in providing the essential lessons and ideas that I needed to become the black woman, scholar, mother, aunt, sister, daughter, companion, and friend that I imagine myself now to be. I am grateful to them all.
I was born on February 7, 1947, in Morley, Missouri, but spent my formative years on my maternal grandparents' farm in Villa Ridge, Illinois. My grandmother, Fannie Venerable Thompson, was the most influential person in my early childhood. She taught me my manners, the Lord's Prayer, and the Twenty-third Psalm. My grandfather, Robert Lee Thompson, taught me the virtue of listening and how to be silent. When I joined my nuclear family in Chicago, I learned additional lessons. My mother, Lottie Mae Thompson Clark, taught me that "God don't like ugly and he ain't crazy about pretty either." I always took that saying to mean I should be balanced, avoid extremes, and look beyond the surface to understand substance. She instilled in me a sense of responsibility and self-respect, and nourished a take-charge attitude. From my mother's example, I learned that laziness and ignorance were sins, but the highest immorality was to be unkind to children. It is because of the exquisite simplicity and profound impact of her teachings on my development that I dedicate to her memory this historical encyclopedia.
From my father, Levester Clark, I inherited the gift of humor, an aesthetic appreciation, and an ability to love unconditionally. I had one very special brother, Orlando Stanley Clark, now deceased, and I have two supportive and loyal sisters, Barbara Ann Clark and Alma Jean Mitchell, who remind me that it is okay to have fun. My daughter, Robbie Davine, born on August 10, 1965, is without question the dearest part of my life. My brother-in-law Sylvester Clark and my sister-in-law Dorothy Clark have offered unfailing encouragement of all my efforts. Among those for whom I feel considerable responsibility for their education and well-being are my nine nieces and nephews: Joyce, Barbie Darlene, Tina, Jimmy, Steven, Jammie, Orlando, Jr., Charles, and Derrick. From the very beginning of my work on the history of black women, Johnny E. Brown was there for me. Finally, I would like to thank my friend James D. Anderson.What black women really need today is power. Although there are many kinds of power, I have learned in the past decade of working with and listening to thousands of black women from all walks of life that special kinds of power exist in our history. I hope that this encyclopedia will bring others to the self-education and empowerment I experienced. I trust that it will encourage the keepers of our people's histories to continue their struggles to be heard.
Darlene Clark Hine
East Lansing, Michigan