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Too Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894-1994

Too Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894-1994
Author: Deborah Gray White
ISBN 13: 9780393319927
ISBN 10: 39331992
Edition: N/A
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: 1999-11-17
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
List Price: $17.95

"Meticulously researched. . . . Too Heavy a Load reads like a wonderful historical novel."—Akilah Monifa, Emerge

Publishers Weekly

The title of Rutgers historian White's long-awaited encore to her seminal Ar'n't I a Woman? (1985) may prove prophetic. The book traces the "masculinization of America's racial consciousness"--the shift from judging black progress by the professional or social success of black women to that of black men--but is unlikely to fulfill White's hope of reaching a "lay" audience. White begins with the formation of the National Association of Colored Women in the 1890s, then summarizes black women's participation in the suffrage movement and in the civil rights movements of the 1920s through the 1960s, and concludes with a conference of black women academics and graduate students at MIT in 1994. Structured like a textbook, the work provides capsule accounts of pivotal events in black women's history. It's clear that black women indeed had to "defend" themselves not only in the mainstream but within the black community. Unlike their white counterparts, White notes, black women saw themselves as peers to black men in community-building activities, but conflict arose when the granting of women's suffrage coincided with the rise of a "self-consciously militant black male" in the wake of WWI. While much here has been said before, and without White's often preachy tone, her systematic focus on the ongoing, internal "struggle over the meaning of black masculinity and femininity"--one that has replayed itself each decade as black women seem caught in a kind of Sisyphean tale--will make White's book required reading for college courses in American history. 25 photos. (Nov.)