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Darlene Clark Hine

A version of this article originally appeared in Black Women in America, 2nd ed.

Anna Julia Cooper, in what is considered the first black feminist text, A Voice from the South (1892), declared, “As our Caucasian barristers are not to blame if they cannot quite put themselves in the dark man’s place, neither should the dark man be wholly expected fully and adequately to reproduce the exact Voice of the black Woman.” African American women have written autobiographies since the 1700s. Today, the many forms of autobiography—memoirs, essays, notes, diaries, advice, and self-help—constitute one of the most important genres in black writing.

Some of the most exciting and dynamic work written at the beginning of the twenty first century focused attention on the social history of black women These autobiographical writings both outside and within the academy occupied in a sense the frontier sites of public discourse ...


Stephen Bourne

Black Londoner whose life as a working‐class seamstress was documented in Aunt Esther's Story (1991), published by Hammersmith and Fulham's Ethnic Communities Oral History Project, and co‐authored with Stephen Bourne. Aunt Esther's Story provides a first‐hand account of Bruce's life as a black Briton in the pre‐Empire Windrush years. Her father, Joseph (1880–1941), arrived in London from British Guiana (now Guyana) in the early 1900s and settled in a tight‐knit working‐class community in Fulham. He worked as a builder's labourer. When Bruce was a young child, Joseph instilled in his daughter a sense of pride in being black. After leaving school, she worked as a seamstress, and in the 1930s she made dresses for the popular African‐American stage star Elisabeth Welch. She also befriended another black citizen of Fulham: the Jamaican nationalist Marcus Garvey She told Bourne he was a nice chap ...


Vanessa Agard-Jones

culinary anthropologist, poet, performing artist, and journalist, was born Verta Mae Smart in Fairfax, South Carolina, the daughter of Frank Smart. She grew up in Monk's Corner, South Carolina, and as a teenager moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she attended Kensington High School. Grosvenor married twice, first to Robert S. Grosvenor and later to Ellensworth Ausby, and had two children.

Grosvenor's early life in the South Carolina Lowcountry was enormously influential in her later career, grounding her in a cultural milieu that was thoroughly Geechee (or Gullah) in language (her first language was the Creole known as Gullah), in ritual, and perhaps most importantly to her later work, in food. Geechee communities of the American South have retained African linguistic and cultural practices.

At the age of thirty-two, in 1970, Grosvenor published her culinary memoir Vibration Cooking or The Travel Notes of a ...


Lisa Clayton Robinson

Born to former slaves in Lowndes County, Alabama, Elizabeth Ross Haynes became a pioneering urban sociologist. Haynes graduated valedictorian of the State Normal School (now Alabama State University) in 1900. She received an A.B. from Fisk University in 1903, and later received an M.A. in sociology from Columbia University in 1923.

After graduation from Fisk, Haynes taught school and worked for segregated branches of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). In 1910, she married George Haynes, a sociologist and cofounder of the National Urban League; their son was born in 1912. After her marriage, Haynes continued to work in unsalaried positions.

From 1918 to 1922, Haynes worked for the U.S. Department of Labor, and from 1920 to 1922 she served as domestic service secretary for the U S Employment Service Throughout her career Haynes was especially concerned with black women ...


Pero Gaglo Dagbovie

On 23 March 1925, roughly thirty years after W. E. B. Du Bois became the first African American historian to receive a PhD, at the age of sixty-six, feminist pioneer, educator, and social activist Anna Julia Cooper, who lived from 1858 to 1964, became the fourth black woman to receive a PhD and the first to receive a PhD within the fields of History and Romance Languages. She earned her doctorate of philosophy from the prestigious University of Paris, the Sorbonne. Her dissertation, written in French, was titled “L’Attitude de la France dans la question de l’esclavage entre 1789 et 1848” (“The Attitude of France on the Question of Slavery between 1789 and 1848”). Cooper conducted meticulous research at the Library of Congress, various French archives, and the Bibliothèque Militaire while immersing herself in the relevant secondary source materials. The leading French historians M Sagnac ...


Alexander J. Chenault

educator and first black public school teacher in California, was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on 12 October 1902. Her father, Pompey Jackson, once a slave, and her mother, Nellie Jackson, of modest means, made sure their eight children were educated. Ida, the youngest, could read at the age of three, and she was soon helping others learn that skill. This early teaching helped determine the course of her life. She attended private schools before transferring to public schools as a sixth grader, graduating from Cherry Street High School in 1914, and enrolling at Rust College. She later transferred to New Orleans University, which became known as Dillard University. Jackson graduated in 1917 with a Normal Teaching Diploma and a certificate in home economics.

In 1918 Jackson moved with her widowed mother to Oakland California After being told she was not qualified to teach in the ...


Ariel Bookman

Kenyan pioneer, horse trainer, aviator, and memoirist, was born on 26 October 1902 in Ashwell, Leicestershire, England, to Charles Clutterbuck, a former army officer, and Clara, née Alexander. Her parents, attracted by the intensive British government effort to promote white settlement in Kenya (then British East Africa), moved there with Beryl and her older brother Richard in 1904. Beryl’s early life was thus shaped by the unique opportunities open to a white child in a frontier colony: she spoke Swahili nearly as early as she did English; learned hunting, games, and mythology from her father’s Nandi tenants; and grew to recognize herself as part of Africa. As she phrased it in her 1942 memoir West with the Night with characteristic, figurative simplicity, “My feet were on the earth of Africa” (134).

Her mother soon returned with Richard to England where she remarried According to one of Markham s biographers ...


Hassoum Ceesay

director of The Gambia National Library and author of the first Gambian Who’s Who, was born in Bathurst and attended the Methodist Girls’ High School. She worked at the General Post Office and later at the British Council. She pioneered library services in The Gambia, and she was one of the earliest professional librarians in black Africa. In 1957, she had a yearlong internship at the Ghana National Library Board, and did further studies in the United Kingdom, where she qualified as a chartered librarian in 1959. At the time, very few Gambian women were in professions outside the traditionally female jobs of teaching, nursing, and secretarial work.

Bishop John Daley of the Anglican Mission opened the first public library in Banjul in 1945; a year later, the British Council opened its library and reading room. When the British Council closed operations in 1963 it handed ...


Amalia K. Amaki

historian, academic, and writer, was born Nell Elizabeth Irvin in Houston, Texas, to Frank Edward Irvin, a chemist and chemistry administrator at the University of California at Berkeley, and Dona Lolita McGruder, a homemaker and personnel officer for the Oakland Public Schools. Her older brother Frank Jr. died during a tonsillectomy at age five in 1943. When Nell was just an infant, her parents moved to Oakland, California, seeking better work opportunities and living conditions. She attended public schools, including Oakland Technical High School, and she was an active youth member of Downs Methodist Church.

Nell Irvin enrolled in the University of California at Berkeley in 1960 and decided on an anthropology major after spending the summer of 1962 in Kano, Nigeria. A student participant in Operations Crossroads Africa she helped build a local school and experienced the country from a grassroots level ...


Amanda J. Davis

writer, activist, editor, speaker, was born Barbara Smith in the central part of Cleveland, Ohio. Smith's mother died at age thirty-four, exactly one month before Smith's tenth birthday; her father, she writes, was a “total mystery” to her. Smith and her twin sister, Beverly, were reared in a modest, working-class home by their mother, maternal grandmother, and great-aunt Phoebe. When Smith was six years old she and her family moved into a two-family house that her aunt LaRue and uncle Bill had bought and she lived there until she was eighteen and went away to college It is this house that Smith most vividly remembers as home and from which she learned many of the fundamentals of black feminism before such a term even existed As Smith watched the women in her family struggle with dignity strength and perseverance against a segregated society marred ...


Greta Koehler

professor of English and African American studies, was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, to Harold N. Tate, an engineer, and Mary Austin Tate, a mathematician. Her parents received their degrees from North Carolina Central University in Durham. During World War II they came to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, where her father served as an engineer in the army and her mother worked for the U.S. Department of Defense. Tate was an honor student at Rumson–Fair Haven Regional High School in New Jersey and received her bachelor's degree in English and American Literature from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1968.

Tate subsequently entered the graduate program in Harvard's English Department, where she was one of only a few black women. She received her Ph.D. in English and American Literature and Language in 1977 Tate started teaching at Howard University in Washington DC and joined ...


Crystal Renée Sanders

college administrator, educator, and clinical psychologist, was born Beverly Daniel in Tallahassee, Florida, to Robert Daniel, who taught art at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, and Catherine Maxwell Daniel. Raised in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, Tatum is a fourth-generation college professor following in the footsteps of her paternal great-grandfather William Hazel, who was the first dean of Howard University's school of architecture; her paternal grandparents Victor and Constance Daniel, who led Maryland's Cardinal Gibbons Institute; and her father. Tatum earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Wesleyan University in 1975, graduating magna cum laude. She also received a Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the University of Michigan in 1976 and 1984, respectively. In 2000 Tatum earned a Master of Arts degree in Religious Studies from Hartford Seminary. While at the University of Michigan, she married Travis James Tatum ...