Afro-American women historians have paid little heed to the issues raised by Black feminists, and Black feminists have paid little if any attention to the historical literature being produced specifically about Black women.
The basic assumption of most of the work produced by historians of Afro-American women is that there is a large body of unexplored accomplishment that merely awaits those with the interest and resources to dig it out and write it up. They view Black women as being oppressed by a number of social forces such as racism and sexism. They do not see Black women as mere victims, or as being defeated by these forces. They assume that since Black people have not only survived but have contributed much to the world in which we live, Black women must have played a large role in those processes. Historians of Black women generally emphasize racial as opposed to sexual oppression, study Black women within the general context of the history of Black Americans, and pay little attention to matters of sexual preference or to the personal and private behavior of those they are studying. Black feminists, on the other hand, seem to come to the study of Black women with the concerns of the White feminist movement, most of whose participants share the racist attitudes of White males. Black feminists tend to emphasize issues of sexual preference and personal, private behavior, and give a much greater weight to the role of sexual oppression by Black males in determining the life chances of Black females. They assume, in many cases, that Black women were oppressed in much the same way as White women--i.e., were denied political and economic roles of significance. Black feminists, therefore, are very weak on the actual achievements of Black women throughout their history in the United States. They have a tendency to ignore the communal roots and context that enabled such figures as Bessie Smith and Zora Neal Hurston, for example, to accomplish what they did.
Bracey, John H. Jr.
"Afro-American Women: A Brief Guide to Writings from Historical and Feminist Perspectives,"
Contributions in Black Studies:
Vol. 8, Article 9.
Available at: http://scholarworks.umass.edu/cibs/vol8/iss1/9