TOO HEAVY A LOAD by Deborah Gray White

TOO HEAVY A LOAD

Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894-1994
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A scrupulously researched examination of 20th-century black women’s organizations and leagues. White (History/Rutgers Univ.; Ar—n—t I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South, 1985) explores the efforts of black women to unite on behalf of themselves and their race. Most arresting here is her analysis of the conflicts that have arisen within these women’s leagues and in the African-American community at large. Gender and class conflicts have been the norm. At the turn of the century, the National Association of Colored Women contended that by working for the poor, they were working for their race, not just for black women. But too many black men—perhaps feeling threatened—responded by chastising these women for not confining their attempts to uplifting their race to their homes and families. Conflicts arose within black women’s organizations, so much so that “by the end of the Depression and war decades there was no viable national Black woman’s organization that was truly the —Voice of Negro Womanhood.— — The masses of black women regarded those females who put gender consciousness ahead of race consciousness as elitist and selfish. Nevertheless, black women’s leagues did much to improve the circumstances of black people throughout the century. In 1964, for example, the National Council of Negro Women challenged the racist white power structure in Mississippi by setting up freedom schools and registering black voters, and also built understanding between black and white women. By the late ’60s, black women’s organizations had become more feminist in nature, once again focusing on women’s rights and needs. More recently, black women have united to defend Joycelyn Elders after she was dismissed by President Clinton. Documented with 25 photographs, this is a rigorous examination of not only the struggles and strengths of black women’s leagues, but of class, race, and gender issues in 20th-century America.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-393-04667-2
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1998