by Patricia Reid-Merritt ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 27, 1996
A provocative investigation into the lives of African-American women who have achieved leadership roles in society despite the barriers of sexism and racism. Reid-Merritt (Social Work and African-American Studies/Richard Stockton State College) interviewed 45 black female leaders ranging in age from 38 to 68. Living and working in large metropolitan areas throughout the US, all of these women have significant influence in the areas of education, business, or justice. Among those interviewed are Gwendolyn Culvert Baker, president of the US Commission for UNICEF; Dr. Josephine D. Davis, the president of York College; and Unita Blackwell, the first black mayor in the state of Mississippi. There are striking similarities among the 45 interviewees. All were raised in strong, supportive families and grew up in communities with responsive schools. This, notes Reid-Merritt, contrasts sharply with the ""appealing assumption that children growing up alienated from society, without strong parental and school support, can still become high-level achievers if they try hard enough."" Another link among these figures is the strong role that the church and spirituality play in their lives. Each of the women interviewed had been active in a church as a child and each claimed that she owed a huge debt to the church. A state cabinet member remarked, ""Nearly everybody up in the governor's cabinet has to go to doctors, psychiatrists, they have to take pills . . . All I do is read my Bible . . . I never worry . . . That's how I get through."" Moreover, each of these women felt relatively free of the traditional pressure to find a mate, focusing her energies instead on excelling: ""No matter what the job was, they knew their performance had to be superlative."" Straightforward and insightful, Reid-Merritt's study offers valuable insights into a significant subject.
Pub Date: Sept. 27, 1996
Page Count: 240
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996
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