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Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia.

Last year was the year of the black woman. Terry McMillan sealed a $2.64 million paperback book deal for Waiting to Exhale; Carol Moseley Braun strode onto Capitol Hill as a senator and Mee C. Jemison became the first black woman to travel into space, And taking each event down line-by-line is historian Darlene Clark Hine, who trumpets the legacy of black female achievement with Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia.

In a day when Aunt Jemima still grins from the cover of a pancake box, Hine's encyclopedia is an overdue tribute. This is not to say that black female achievement has not been documented before (Jessie Carney Smith's Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made A Difference is certainly in the running), but this well-researched tome could be the most comprehensive work on the contributions of black women to American life and culture.

Black Women in America is not an academic reference book, but rather a series of essays about women - from 17th-century slaves to contemporary figures - who overcame adversity and worked to change their world. The hefty two volumes boast 450 photographs and 804 entries, 641 of which are individual biographies of black women; the remaining 163 entries cover broad topics such as slavery, religion, civil rights, law and education, as well as organizations that played a central role in the history of black women. Also included are entries on four black men - W.E.B. Du Bois, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey - and their ideas about and involvement with black women.

When approached about putting together an encyclopedia on black women, Hine's initial response was skeptical. However, after some preliminary digging, she discovered "a whole new world," where the atrocities against and accomplishments of black women loomed large.

For instance, between 1918 and 1927, 11 black women were lynched, three of whom were pregnant. Tituba, a 17th century slave, was indicted for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials. During the Civil War, Susie Baker King Taylor learned to handle a musket and stayed with her regiment through a major injury. The Housewives' League of Detroit, which sprouted during the Great Depression, pledged "to support black business, buy black products, patronize black professionals and keep black money in the black community."

Black Women in America is a must to buy, read and cherish. That way, you can experience the year of the black woman over and over again.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Padgett, Tania
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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