Black Women Need the Power of History to Fuel the Future

Article excerpt

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 to only know about the injustices and exploitation Black woman endured. We also owe it to ourselves to experience the thrill of knowing about the heroism of Harriet Tubman, share in the pride of Madame 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 the 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 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 the 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. My first response was ambivalence. I knew a series of such books would greatly facilitate future research on Blackwomen's history. I doubted, however, that more than 50 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.

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. …

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