Ann D. Gordon
The essays in this book originated as papers presented at the conference, Afro- American Women and the Vote: From Abolitionism to the Voting Rights Act, held at the University of Massachusetts in the fall of 1987. In the absence of any comprehensive political history of African American women, the conference solicited studies that would lay the groundwork for such a history when presented in chronological order. Formally, the task of synthesizing discrete papers fell to Bettina Aptheker, whose summary also appears in this book. But it was undertaken as well by all participants gathered at Amherst. As they analyzed continuities and common themes in their papers and posed questions for further work, participants began to construct a new narrative history defined by African American women.
The purposes of this exercise included but were not limited to solving problems of scholarship. Many members of the audience and some speakers came to the conference because of their interest in the political empowerment of women. Plans for the event reflected a conviction that histories of struggle for a political voice are pertinent to the exercise of political rights today. Traditions and history about the American Revolution have, for example, always helped to define the identity of white males as citizens. But the later historical experience