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Too Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894-1994

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Too Heavy a Load celebrates this century's rich history of black women defending themselves, from Ida B. Wells to Anita Hill. Although most prominently a history of the century-long struggle against racism and male chauvinism, Deborah Gray White also movingly illuminates black women's painful struggle to hold their racial and gender identities intact while feeling the inex Too Heavy a Load celebrates this century's rich history of black women defending themselves, from Ida B. Wells to Anita Hill. Although most prominently a history of the century-long struggle against racism and male chauvinism, Deborah Gray White also movingly illuminates black women's painful struggle to hold their racial and gender identities intact while feeling the inexorable pull of the agendas of white women and black men. Finally, it tells the larger and lamentable story of how Americans began this century measuring racial progress by the status of black women but gradually came to focus on the status of black men-the masculinization of America's racial consciousness. Writing with the same magisterial eye for historical detail as in her best-selling Ar'n't I a Woman, Deborah Gray White has given us a moving and definitive history of struggle and freedom. "Splendid . . . a broad and sweeping history that becomes an intensely personal experience for the reader. . . . An inspiring showcase of scholarship and sistership." - Nell Irvin Painter, Raleigh News & Observer


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Too Heavy a Load celebrates this century's rich history of black women defending themselves, from Ida B. Wells to Anita Hill. Although most prominently a history of the century-long struggle against racism and male chauvinism, Deborah Gray White also movingly illuminates black women's painful struggle to hold their racial and gender identities intact while feeling the inex Too Heavy a Load celebrates this century's rich history of black women defending themselves, from Ida B. Wells to Anita Hill. Although most prominently a history of the century-long struggle against racism and male chauvinism, Deborah Gray White also movingly illuminates black women's painful struggle to hold their racial and gender identities intact while feeling the inexorable pull of the agendas of white women and black men. Finally, it tells the larger and lamentable story of how Americans began this century measuring racial progress by the status of black women but gradually came to focus on the status of black men-the masculinization of America's racial consciousness. Writing with the same magisterial eye for historical detail as in her best-selling Ar'n't I a Woman, Deborah Gray White has given us a moving and definitive history of struggle and freedom. "Splendid . . . a broad and sweeping history that becomes an intensely personal experience for the reader. . . . An inspiring showcase of scholarship and sistership." - Nell Irvin Painter, Raleigh News & Observer

30 review for Too Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894-1994

  1. 5 out of 5

    Natty

    I just wrote this for my class and thought i'd put it out there... The central question, by Deborah Gray White’s interpretation, that black women and men faced in the first half of the 20th century was this: “Does racial progress depend more on men to play patriarchal roles or on women to overcome sexual and racial oppression? (141). She explored this by tracing how discourse on gender and responsibility (for racial uplift) changed over time and across class lines. Although the book focused prima I just wrote this for my class and thought i'd put it out there... The central question, by Deborah Gray White’s interpretation, that black women and men faced in the first half of the 20th century was this: “Does racial progress depend more on men to play patriarchal roles or on women to overcome sexual and racial oppression? (141). She explored this by tracing how discourse on gender and responsibility (for racial uplift) changed over time and across class lines. Although the book focused primarily on the intellectual history of a few prominent leaders of the movements, she did explore to some degree how and where the broader movement influenced its leaders, vise versa, and how disjuncts between the two led to decline in leadership and representation. I have a burning curiosity to know the details of the relationship between Amy Jacques Garvey and Marcus Garvey. How do two individuals with such vastly different views on women exist both publicly and privately as partners? How did they negotiate their differences? Was he less patriarchal and she less feminist in private life than in public? As I was reading this book I had an essay by Elsa Barkley Brown in my thoughts, imagining how she would respond to this style of history. Elsa Barkley Brown uses a metaphor of jazz versus classical to illustrate different styles of thinking, and different styles of writing history. Brown writes that like jazz, “history is also everybody talking at once, multiple rhythms being played simultaneously (279). She laments that too many historians are suffering from “classical” training: “we require surrounding silence—of the audience, of all the instruments not singled out as the performers in this section, even of any alternative visions than the composer’s” (298). Brown’s metaphor fits nicely with White’s narrative of black women’s organizing. In White’s narrative, virtually only one character spoke at a time, and only rarely in conversation with other influences or people of the time. For instance, we spoke in class about White’s representation of a “women’s era” followed by a “men’s era” and reflected on the lack of conversation between men and women about the role of gendered responsibility in racial uplift. Further, White rarely brought in “alternative visions than the composer’s,” heavily relying on movement leaders to reveal the sentiments of the day.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kelley

    I very much loved White's Ar'N't I A Woman, which was a history of slave women in the plantation south. So, I was pleased to learn that White had also pursued a history of the black women's club movements of the late 1800 - 1950s. White does a fantastic job of documenting the many ins and outs of this movement, which should really be referred to as movements (or, perhaps, movement with a "the" in front of it -- a practice bell hooks as promoted with regard to speaking about feminist movement, rat I very much loved White's Ar'N't I A Woman, which was a history of slave women in the plantation south. So, I was pleased to learn that White had also pursued a history of the black women's club movements of the late 1800 - 1950s. White does a fantastic job of documenting the many ins and outs of this movement, which should really be referred to as movements (or, perhaps, movement with a "the" in front of it -- a practice bell hooks as promoted with regard to speaking about feminist movement, rather than THE feminist movement). She examines the forces these women were up against, including examining how they could sometimes be their own worst enemy. Here, she also looks at the ways systematic forms of inequality among black women shaped interactions between club women, and among various factions with just one club: class, regional, and gender differences (the latter emerge when women's club work was a part of larger movements for racial uplift). My only criticism is that, unlike Ar'N't I A Woman, this book seems to have no overall narrative or story that ties it all together. Gray's earlier book was driven by a couple of basic concepts which she illuminated through the detailed historiography of black female identity in the plantation south. In Too Heavy A Load, White doesn't seem to have a message or two she wants to convey. For me, this makes the book feel more like a survey of the history, where it's sometimes too easy to get lost noticing the details of individual trees, unaware of the broader outlines of the forest.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chanequa Walker-Barnes

    With this text, White challenges the oft-referenced perception that African American women have had a "race-first, gender-second" approach to social justice. Beginning with the women's club movement of the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, White reviews how African American women advocated for themselves (locally, nationally, and internationally), and the ways in which their efforts were impacted by issues such as class, political climate, and sexuality. With this text, White challenges the oft-referenced perception that African American women have had a "race-first, gender-second" approach to social justice. Beginning with the women's club movement of the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, White reviews how African American women advocated for themselves (locally, nationally, and internationally), and the ways in which their efforts were impacted by issues such as class, political climate, and sexuality.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Count Jared

    Everyone knows the names Rosa Parks, Coretta King, Angela Davis and Nina Simone. If you want to know what their grandmothers contributed to the cause of black civil rights in this country, this is the book you should read next.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    A book for class. Not awful, but a little myopic.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Đinh Xuân

    It's good book It's good book

  7. 5 out of 5

    Amy Strolle

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kim Brooks

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  10. 5 out of 5

    Camille

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  12. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Bankole-Medina

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ivy

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lalit

  15. 4 out of 5

    Misha

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gretchen Dykstra

  17. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dana

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amelia Zurcher

  22. 4 out of 5

    Carmen Slaughter

  23. 5 out of 5

    Clove

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra Black

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mdot

  27. 5 out of 5

    Holly

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kayla Fisher

  29. 5 out of 5

    Diana

  30. 4 out of 5

    Arjun Parikh

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