The Jamaica-born novelist and poet Michelle Cliff offers us a wonderful description of the kind of history writing so evident in the preceding essays:
It is a marble building—but like a cave inside. In the basement—against granite—a woman sits in plain sight. She is black: and old. "Are you a jazz singer?" someone asks. "No—a historian." . . . She is writing a history of incarceration. Here is where black women congregate—against granite. This is their headquarters; where they write history. Around tables they exchange facts—details of the unwritten past. Like the women who came before them—the women they are restoring to their work/space—the historians are skilled at unraveling lies; are adept at detecting the reality beneath the erasure. 1
In 1979 the National Council of Negro Women—and Bettye Collier-Thomas had a lot to do with this—organized the first National Scholarly Conference on black women's history. In reflecting upon the inspiring works presented here in this book, I thought about the direction African American women's history scholarship has taken in the last eight years. Visioning the ancestors has been a process of reclamation and empowerment, a source of political vitalization.