A richly rhapsodic record of encounters with Southern black women, long obscured by the ""mythological roles forced upon them--from chattel to Mammy to Matriarch."" To elicit their ""silent voices,"" the author (with entree provided by Charity Simmons, a middle-aged black activist with whom she traveled) listened and questioned at church suppers and educational meetings, in college dorms, SNCC offices, and sharecroppers' shacks. The multiple portraits that emerge are powerful--though the author's gushiness and overwhelming concern (""How shall you know the dwelling of Mrs. Long unless you have crossed the threshold and absorbed it with your eyes, lips, and fingertips?"") will undoubtedly alienate the fastidious. Less tremulous are the taped conversations on a subject of bi-racial female interest--men; particularly her account of speeding around the deep South with a group of tough, lively women who enjoyed the nightlife, as well as the seminars, that civil rights conferences offered. Here and elsewhere, this rather amateurish documentary has at least the virtue of providing human detail on a milieu long neglected by both novelists and social scientists.