Uncovering Black Feminist Writers 1963-90: An Evaluation of Their Coverage in Research Tools

By Hankins, Rebecca | Reference & User Services Quarterly, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Uncovering Black Feminist Writers 1963-90: An Evaluation of Their Coverage in Research Tools


Hankins, Rebecca, Reference & User Services Quarterly


Has the move toward online resources had an effect on source material for the study of black feminist theory? The last forty years have witnessed a critical mass of literary and theoretical writings on the black feminist movement. This article evaluates the coverage of writings by a select group of forty "second wave" (1963-75) and pre-"third wave" (1976-90) black feminists in twelve major electronic-literary and women's-studies indexing and abstracting services. Most of the twelve resources studied provide materials on the black feminist movement; however, Gender Studies Database, Black Studies Center, and Periodical Index Online, respectively, were identified as offering the best overall coverage of black feminist writers. Each of the twelve databases studied are discussed in detail, offering some useful hints for black feminist studies researchers interested in finding the most comprehensive materials in the field. The survey investigates the breadth of coverage of writings authored by these black feminists and determines that there is a critical need to either update current thesauri or develop a new comprehensive tool for indexing and abstracting black feminist writings. Finally, the results of this study will assist libraries and librarians in making decisions about purchasing the most relevant resources for research on the writings of the feminist movement in general and black feminists in particular.

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Since the mid-1990s, there has been an explosion of indexing and abstracting databases incorporating previously print-only resources with newer, more comprehensive, full-text services. Although there are a plethora of print indexes considered invaluable to researchers, the movement within the library field to replace print with electronic access to online databases has seen a marked increase. How has this move toward online resources affected access to source material for the study of black feminist theory? The last forty years have witnessed a critical mass of literary and theoretical writings on the black feminist movement. This article will evaluate the coverage of writings by a select group of "second wave" (1963-75) and pre-"third wave" (1976-90) black feminists in twelve indexing and abstracting services. Are the writings of these black feminists indexed in the major electronic literary and women's studies database resources available for researchers? What services provide ease of use combined with multiple levels of search strategies that include searching by author, subject, title, and publication date simultaneously for retrieval of information? The survey will answer these questions and identify the availability of these writings as full text or abstracts. The survey investigates the breadth of coverage and determines that there is a critical need to develop a comprehensive tool for indexing and abstracting black feminist writings. The study will, more importantly, show what databases provide access to scholarly, peer-reviewed articles that legitimize a subject matter. Providing access to these resources encourages critical analysis of black feminist theory, thus furthering the diversity and scope of research. The results will assist researchers in choosing the most relevant resources for their research on the writings of the feminist movement in general and black feminists in particular. In this era of shrinking budgets, the data will provide guidance for librarians seeking to purchase electronic resources in the area of black women's studies.

The black feminist writers chosen are consistently listed in major research about and writings on the feminist movement, including Patricia Hill Collins's Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment; the voluminous Pioneer Feminists Project out of Harvard University and its first major publication, Feminists Who Changed America, edited by Barbara Love in 2006; Barbara Christian's seminal 1985 work Black Feminist Criticism: Perspectives on Black Women Writers; and the more recent two-volume set, Encyclopedia of African American Women Writers, edited by Yolanda Williams Page in 2007. …

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