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Past and Present

Race And Gender Cannot Be Separated By A Calendar | Past & Present

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As February turns to March and Black History Month turns to Women’s History Month, I am reminded of the book, All the Women are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave. This groundbreaking 1982 anthology addressed the growing interest in Black women’s history and confronted the embedded assumptions that women’s history examined White women and African American history addressed Black men. These narrow perspectives allowed for the rich and important contributions of Black women to fall through the cracks and the connections between race and gender in historical experience to remain unexamined.

The book’s editors—Akasha Gloria Hull, Patricia Bell-Scott, and Barbara Smith—attempted to fill this gap in knowledge and scholarship by tapping into the growing interest among scholars and the public in Black women. Scholars spoke directly to the historical experiences of Black women as individuals, family and community members, political activists, and enslaved persons, and demanded that the readers consider the full complexity of Black women’s history and experiences in an American context.

Since its publication, this anthology has served as a foundation for Black women’s history. In 1989, legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw called it one of the few books that articulated the Black women’s experience, and used it as a starting place for her seminal work on intersectionality. Three years later, it provided guidance as Black women’s scholars crafted their response to the nomination and confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in particular the accusations and statements made by law professor Anita Hill.

In fact, throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, this anthology continued to challenge scholars to broaden their focus and to consider the essential ways in which the experiences of gender and race cannot be separated as easily as the pages of a calendar.