Why the History of Black Women--Often Overlooked--Is Important

Roundup: Talking About History

Interview with Darlene Clark Hine published in Ebony (March 2004):

1. The history of Black women has been long overlooked. How can we make 'His-story' 'Her-story' and Our story?
It is important to recognize that the study of Black women's history, in addition to the study of Black men's history, makes for a much more inclusive, richer, fuller and much more truthful African-American History -- or in other words "OUR" story.
2. What should women -- and men -- do in this Women's History Month? I would recommend that people read more of the history books that are being written.
3. Why is African-American women's history important?
African-American women's history is important for three reasons: First, Black women made important contributions to the development of America, and their service and sacrifice ensured the survival of Black people from slavery to the present. They deserve to have their stories told and included in the history of this nation. Secondly, Black women's history has important lessons to teach us about courage, faith, perseverance, and creativity. Knowing the history of Black women empowers us to achieve and live a more enriched existence. Finally, in order to develop a clear vision of how we can transform this society to ensure that our people appreciate family, education, political engagement and the quest for freedom of opportunity, we must study the history of Black women.
4. Why do major history books give so little attention to Black women leaders?
Until recently there were few major biographies of significant Black women leaders. The last 15 years witnessed an explosion of first-rate biographies of major Black women leaders such as Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Sojourner Truth and most recently Harriet Tubman. Now historians have no excuse to exclude or overlook Black women. Future historians will publish more significant studies of outstanding Black women, including Dorothy Height, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Maxine Waters and Carol Moseley Braun.
5. You are one of the writers of the definitive encyclopedia of African-American women, Black Women in America, and a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Why have you dedicated your life to making people aware of the importance of women's history?
I believe that we make legitimate claims for freedom of opportunity and social justice by demonstrating our past records of contributions, accomplishments and struggles. We cannot consider ourselves to be truly educated and well-informed if we only know half-truths.

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