We Specialize in the Wholly Impossible: A Reader in Black Women's History / Edition 1

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From the introduction:
This book was put together to reclaim, and to create heightened awareness about, individuals, contributions, and struggles that have made African-American survival and progress possible. We cannot accurately comprehend either our hidden potential or the full range of problems that besiege us until we know about the successful struggles that generations of foremothers waged against virtually insurmountable obstacles. We can, and will, chart a coherent future and win essential opportunities with a clear understanding of the past in all its pain and glory.

Here, in a single volume, is a sweeping panorama of black women's experience throughout history and across classes and continents. Containing over 30 crucial essays by the most influential and prominent scholars in the field, including Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Linda Gordon, and Nell Irvin Painter, We Specialize in the Wholly Impossible is a comprehensive assessment of black women's lives.

The book is divided into six sections: theory; Africa; the Caribbean and Canada; 18th-century United States; 19th-century United States; and 20th-century United States. A remarkably diverse range of topics are covered, with chapters on such subjects as working-class consciousness among Afro-American women; the impact of slavery on family structure; black women missionaries in South Africa; slavery, sharecropping, and sexual inequality; black women during the American Revolution; imprisoned black women in the American West; women's welfare activism; SNCC and black women's activism; and property-owning free African-American women in the 19th-century South.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Cutting-edge...I highly recommend the book."

-De Witt S. Dykes, Jr.,Oakland University

Library Journal
Similar in format to the other volumes of the series, this book is a collection of 32 scholarly articles, most reprinted from journals since 1989. The first dozen articles address theory in black women's history and black women in Africa, Canada, and the Caribbean, while the bulk of the essays concentrates on black women in 18th-through 20th-century American history. The quotation in the title was a motto of a training school for black women. Hine also edited the well-received Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (LJ 2/15/93). A shorter, older reader, Ellen Dubois's Unequal Sisters (Routledge, 1990), offers articles not only on African American women but other minority women as well. Recommended for undergraduate women's studies and African American history collections that do not hold the original sources.-Patricia A. Beaber, Trenton State Coll. Lib., N.J.
School Library Journal
YAIn the introduction to this richly textured collection of essays by 30 authors, the editors clearly state their goal: ``to reclaim and to create heightened awareness about individuals, contributions, and struggles that have made African-American [women's] survival and progress possible.'' After three general essays, the material is organized both chronologically and geographically, moving from the colonial era through the 20th century. The experiences considered are those of women from Africa, the Caribbean, Canada, and the U.S. Topics include, among others, African women in the Atlantic slave trade; slave narratives of young women in the 1830s in the West Indies and the U.S.; property owning, free African American women in the South in the 1850s; the role of Mississippi African American women during the Civil War; and the significance of the costumes of 19th-century African American women. While the editors intend this reader as a text for courses in African American and women's history, the short, highly readable material will appeal to YAs.Margaret Nolan, W.T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
A bracing anthology designed for use in African-American, American, and women's history courses. It comprises a unified collection of 32 scholarly but fully accessible essays on aspects of African-American (including Canadian and Caribbean) women's experiences and accomplishments in the diaspora, with an emphasis on the resistance of Black women to racial and sexual oppression and exploitation. The essays are organized within six sections: general theoretical essays; Africa; Caribbean and Canada; US--18th century; US--19th century; and US--20th century. The essays have been previously published, most in the 1990s. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780926019812
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/1995
  • Series: Black Women in United States History Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 618
  • Product dimensions: 6.94 (w) x 9.80 (h) x 1.52 (d)

Meet the Author

Darlene Clark Hine is John A. Hannah Professor of American History at Michigan State University and editor of the award- winning Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia.

Wilma King is Associate Professor of History at Michigan State University and the author of two forthcoming books, Africa's Progeny-America's Slaves: Children and Youth in Bondage in the Nineteenth-Century South and From Uncle Tom's Cabin to the Onset of the Civil War (1851-1861).

Linda Reed is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Houston, where she is also director of the African-American Studies Program. She is currently working on a biography of Fa

Linda Reed is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Houston, where she is also director of the African-American Studies Program. She is currently working on a biography of Fannie Lou Hamer.

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Table of Contents

1 African-American Women's History and the Metalanguage of Race 3
2 When Your Work Is Not Who You Are: The Development of a Working-Class Consciousness among Afro-American Women 25
3 "What Has Happened Here": The Politics of Difference in Women's History and Feminist Politics 39
4 Sexual Demography: The Impact of the Slave Trade on Family Structure 57
5 African Women in the Atlantic Slave Trade 67
6 Concubinage and the Status of Women Slaves in Early Colonial Northern Nigeria 77
7 Give a Thought to Africa: Black Women Missionaries in Southern Africa 103
8 Women and Slavery in the Caribbean: A Feminist Perspective 127
9 A Study of Two Women's Slave Narratives: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and The History of Mary Prince 143
10 Defiance or Submission? The Role of the Slave Woman in Slave Resistance in the British Caribbean 147
11 The Search for Mary Bibb, Black Woman Teacher in Nineteenth-Century Canada West 171
12 The Double Bonds of Race and Sex: Black and White Women in a Colonial Virginia Parish 189
13 Black Women in the Era of the American Revolution in Pennsylvania 211
14 From Three-Fifths to Zero: Implications of the Constitution for African-American Women, 1787-1870 225
15 Free African-American Women in Savannah, 1800-1860: Affluence and Autonomy Amid Adversity 237
16 Property Owning Free African-American Women in the South, 1800-1870 253
17 Slavery, Sharecropping, and Sexual Inequality 281
18 "A Career to Build, a People to Serve, a Purpose to Accomplish": Race, Class, Gender, and Detroit's First Black Women Teachers, 1865-1916 303
19 Still in Chains: Black Women in Western Prisons, 1865-1910 321
20 The Southern Side of "Glory": Mississippi African-American Women During the Civil War 335
21 Domination and Resistance: The Politics of Wage Household Labor in New South Atlanta 343
22 Sojourner Truth in Life and Memory: Writing the Biography of an American Exotic 359
23 Black Womanhood in Nineteenth-Century America: Subversion and Self-Construction in Two Women's Autobiographies 373
24 Clothing as an Expression of History: The Dress of African-American Women in Georgia, 1880-1915 393
25 "Civilization," the Decline of Middle-Class Manliness, and Ida B. Wells's Antilynching Campaign (1892-94) 407
26 Black Club Women and the Creation of the National Association of Colored Women 433
27 Black and White Visions of Welfare: Women's Welfare Activism, 1890-1945 449
28 Discontented Black Feminists: Prelude and Postscript to the Passage of the Nineteenth Amendment 487
29 The Black Community and the Birth Control Movement 505
30 And Still I Rise: Black Women and Reform, Buffalo, New York, 1900-1940 521
31 "We All Seem Like Brothers and Sisters": The African-American Community in Manhattan, Kansas, 1865-1940 543
32 Black Women Activists and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee: The Case of Ruby Doris Smith Robinson 561
Notes on Editors and Contributors 579
Copyrights and Permissions 585
Index 589
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