A Shining Thread of Hope

Darlene Clark Hine, Author, Kathleen Thompson, Author, Kathleen Thompson, Joint Author
Darlene Clark Hine, Author, Kathleen Thompson, Author, Kathleen Thompson, Joint Author Broadway Books $27.5 (368p) ISBN 978-0-7679-0110-9
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
A comprehensive history of African American women spanning four centuries, this stirring tour de force moves black women from the wings to center stage. In the slave quarters, they formed underground schools to teach reading and writing, which, in the authors' analysis, reflected their abiding concern with family, education, community and survival strategies. Drawing on slave narratives, autobiographies, letters, oral histories, novels, as well as cultural anthropological and sociological research, the authors document the key role of black women in opening the West, the abolition movement, the struggle for women's rights, the Harlem Renaissance and the civil rights era. Particularly illuminating is their investigation of the contributions of African American women to the Civil War as spies, nurses, cooks, fund-raisers and propagandists, and their discussion of black women's activist organizations and clubs in the early part of this century to fight poverty and discrimination. Among the neglected notables profiled are anti-lynching crusader Ida Wells-Barnett; Harriet Wilson, the first African American woman novelist (Our Nig, published in 1859, was ignored for more than a century); Underground Railroad agent Anna Murray Douglass, wife of abolitionist Frederick Douglass; and bank president Maggie Walker, who led a 1904 boycott of Richmond, Va.'s segregated streetcars. The authors close with an incisive look at the flowering of black female entrepreneurship and the problems of domestic violence and HIV infection. Their revealing chronicle will inspire and instruct those who care about the quality and direction of African American life. Hine is a history professor at Michigan State University and coeditor of Black Women in America; Thompson is editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of Black Women. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour. (Jan.)
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