Black women in America : an historical encyclopedia /

Other Authors: Hine, Darlene Clark., Brown, Elsa Barkley., Terborg-Penn, Rosalyn.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Brooklyn, N.Y. : Carlson Pub., 1993.
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Review by Choice Review

The unique viewpoint of the African-American woman's experience permeates every aspect of the 804 essays in this encyclopedia, from the topics of the entries to the strength of language in each description. The signed essays range in length from two paragraphs to 25 pages, and accompanying bibliographies indicate that many are based on rare or unpublished sources of information. Although Jesse Carney Smith's Notable Black American Women (CH, Jun'92) contained material on a number of the 641 figures included, many are not covered in any standard reference source. In addition, this encyclopedia contains 163 topical articles, including general discussions of slavery and free black women during the Civil War, historical accounts of black women's organizations, and articles on stereotypes such as Aunt Jemima and Mammy. Some 450 black-and-white photos scattered through the text are striking; while sources such as The Negro Almanac (5th ed., 1989) include similar photographs, this is the first to exhibit so many archival photos of black women. The entries are followed by a chronology of black women in the US, beginning with the first three women put ashore at Jamestown in 1619, then tracing famous firsts and important events through 1992. Following the chronology is an excellent annotated bibliography of basic resources in the field. The index is detailed and accurate, with fine cross-references, and the list of biographical entries by profession is useful and clearly defined. Hine, editor of Black Women in United States History: From Colonial Times to the Present (16v., 1990) and author of books on African-American history (e.g., Black Women in White: Racial Conflict and Cooperation in the Nursing Profession CH, Mar'90), has produced a sound work that will be a standard reference source for years to come. Highly recommended for all libraries. M. F. Jones; Muskingum College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia was initiated in order "to reclaim and to create heightened awareness about individuals, contributions, and struggles that have made African-American survival and progress possible." The encyclopedia is the work of dedicated scholars of black women's history. Editor Hine is a professor of American history at Michigan State University, founder of the Black Women in the Middle West project at Purdue University, and editor of Carlson Publishing's Black Women in United States History series (1990). Associate editors are Elsa Barkley Brown of the University of Michigan's Department of History and Center for Afro-American and African Studies and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, professor of history at Morgan State University. Many of the women on the 21-member editorial advisory board belong to the Association of Black Women Historians. In the work under review, all essays are signed by contributors whose credentials are listed in the back of the encyclopedia, along with those of the editors and the advisory board. Approximately three-quarters of Black Women in America's 804 entries are biographies of individual black women who "played a role on the national stage or in national news" or who were "prominent only in their local communities but were typical of women throughout the country." While the encyclopedia dutifully includes all the best-known black female historical figures (e.g., Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth), its importance for reference collections lies in its emphasis on such lesser-known women as cartoonist Zelda Jackson Ormes, quiltmaker Harriet Powers, and Civil War-spy Mary Elizabeth Bowser. Entries for four black men--W. E. B. Du Bois, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and Marcus Garvey--were included because "the encyclopedia would have been incomplete without the presentation of their ideas." One-quarter of the book's entries are on black women's organizations (Housewives' League of Detroit, Colored Women's Progressive Franchise Association), educational institutions and organizations (Spelman College, United Negro College Fund), and broad topics relevant to black women's history (Slave Narratives, Harlem Renaissance). Broad topics are always addressed from the perspective of black women's history. The article Slavery, for example, emphasizes trade of women and girls, gender issues, marriage, childbearing and child care, sexual abuse, and rape. Articles range in length from several paragraphs to more than 20 pages. Historical scope extends from 1619, when three black women were brought to Jamestown, Virginia, by a Dutch ship, to 1992, when astronaut Mae Jemison became the first black woman to travel in space, Lusia Harris-Stewart was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and Carol Moseley-Braun was nominated for the U.S. Senate. Although a few entries describe black women who lived or worked in Canada (e.g., Cary, Mary Ann Shadd), the encyclopedia concentrates on the U.S. rather than the Americas. Most articles include bibliographies of sources the author used to write the entry or provide additional information. The level of materials cited varies with the subject of the article. Essays on contemporary entertainers (e.g., Winfrey, Oprah and Turner, Tina) cite such popular publications as Cosmopolitan, Jet, Ebony, Essence, and Time; articles on historical figures and topics include more scholarly bibliographies. For example, the bibliography for Slavery is divided into sections on documents, books, and articles and includes many references to legal materials, nineteenth-century periodicals, and slave narratives. Contributors of articles on less-studied women or topics often consulted such unpublished materials as typescripts (e.g., Young Women's Christian Association) or personal interviews (e.g., Wallace, Sippie and Sweet Honey in the Rock). Articles on musicians either include or cite discographies. Bibliographies are up-to-date, including many sources from the 1990s. Although the bibliographies are not intended to be exhaustive, a few are surprisingly sparse. For example, Parks, Rosa cites several books and articles in Ebony and Essence but lists no scholarly journal articles or even the citation to the Supreme Court's ruling on bus desegregation. Also, the bibliography for Tyson, Cicely lists one monograph and two reference books, but no articles. A chronology of black women's history includes such landmark events as the first published slave narrative by a black woman (1831), Sara E. Goode's 1885 patent for her "Folding Cabinet Bed," and JoAnne Little's 1975 acquittal of the murder of her prison guard. A thoughtfully annotated bibliography prepared by Janet Sims-Wood, a reader-services librarian at Howard University's Moorland-Springarn Research Center, lists major reference works, general histories, and research collections housing primary materials. A classified list of biographical entries identifies black women according to occupation or activity, such as athlete, librarian, nun, bandleader, or temperance activist. The carefully constructed 150-page index lists "tens of thousands" of access points to topics and individuals. Because the biographical articles are limited to black women, readers will find the index useful for locating discussions on the impact of males (Robert Gould Shaw, Alvin Ailey) and white women (Harriet Beecher Stowe) on black women's history and culture. Also included in the index are black women not covered in their own entries (e.g., Iman, Sister Souljah, and Lt. Phoebe Jeter, who shot down the first Scud missile in the Persian Gulf War), book titles (The Color Purple), television shows ("The Jeffersons," "Star Trek"), and individual cities. See references enhance the index's usefulness. A "Reader's Guide," a list of abbreviations, and an alphabetical list of topical entries are special features that increase the usefulness of the encyclopedia. Many of the excellent photographs are from the Moorland-Springarn Research Center and the Schomburg Center of the New York Public Library. Black Women in America is a labor of love and a joy to read. It is stunningly detailed and comprehensive, pulling together research from manuscript collections as well as the popular press, yet engagingly written so that it will be as fascinating and accessible to the high school student and the general reader as it is to the historian. Articles such as Fashion Industry and Beauty Culture provide unique perspectives on general topics. Citations to primary sources suggest possiblities for further research. The closest competitor to Black Women in America is Notable Black American Women, edited by Jessie Carney Smith [RBB Ap 15 92], but the latter is a strictly biographical source, providing articles on 500 women. The biographical information for each individual is comparable in the two works, but the new title has a broader scope--it covers more people, includes articles on topics and organizations, and provides more extensive indexing. While small libraries that already own Notable Black American Women will need to evaluate whether they can afford the additional coverage in the work under review, Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia is highly recommended for high school, public, and academic libraries. (Reviewed May 1, 1993)

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

This two-volume encyclopedia contains more than 600 entries describing the lives of prominent African American women. Photos. (Sept). (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Originally released in a much more expensive hardcover edition (LJ 2/15/93), this is an extremely useful guide to both the history and current status of African American women. The majority of the entries are biographical; organizations, movements, and the place of black women in the arts, literature, and various professions are also thoroughly discussed. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.