A literary and political genealogy of the last half-century, Words of Witness explores black feminist autobiographical narratives in the context of activism and history since the landmark 1954 segregation case, Brown v. Board of Education. Angela A. Ards examines how activist writers, especially five whose memoirs were published in the 1990s and 2000s, crafted these life stories to engage and shape progressive, post-Brown politics. Exploring works by the critically acclaimed June Jordan and Edwidge Danticat, as well as by popular and emerging authors such as Melba Beals, Rosemary Bray, and Eisa Davis, Ards demonstrates how each text asserts countermemories to official—and often nostalgic—understandings of the civil rights and Black Power movements. She situates each writer as activist-citizen, adopting and remaking particular roles—warrior, “the least of these,” immigrant, hip-hop head—to crystallize a range of black feminist responses to urgent but unresolved political issues.
About the Author
Angela A. Ards is an assistant professor of English at Southern Methodist University. She formerly worked as a journalist for Ms. and the Village Voice.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments Introduction: Post-Brown Political Aesthetics 1 Beyond the Strong Black Woman in Melba Beals’s Warriors Don’t Cry 2 Reclaiming the Radicalism of Social Interdependence in Rosemary Bray’s Unafraid of the Dark: A Memoir 3 Honoring the Past to Move Forward in June Jordan’s Soldier: A Poet’s Childhood 4 Collective Storytelling as Diasporic Consciousness in Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying 5 Cultivating Liberatory Joy in Eisa Davis’s Angela’s Mixtape Epilogue: Teaching “the People”: Bodies, Material Histories, and the Project of Black Feminist Autobiography Notes Bibliography Index