Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower, edited by Deborah Gray White, features autobiographical essays from prominent African American women historians that reflect on their careers, their tenure battles, and their struggles to invent the field of African American women’s history at the same time as they were forced to fight to make and preserve spaces for themselves within the historical profession. I blogged about this book briefly two years ago, but just this week finally sat down to read it. (Consider this my slight contribution to Women’s History Month blogging.)
It is good to be reminded of how new the field of African American women’s history is–the contributors to this volume were born in the 1940s-1960s. They are people we know and work with, and they are truly a pioneer generation. White’s introductory essay does a brilliant job of highlighting the awesome challenges of professing black women’s history from inside a black woman’s body:
Educated African American women believed they had to overcome their history before they could do their history. Yet the nature of the history they sought to overcome was so embarassing and demeaning [of racial, class, and sexual exploitation and abuse] that it kept them from engaging that history in all but the most indirect manner. It was not by choice, therefore, but by necessity that we came late to the historical profession.
White and her contributors explain the many struggles that black women faced as they began to enter the profession in the 1960s and 1970s– Continue Reading »