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A Black Women's History of the United States

(ReVisioning American History #5)

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  1,637 ratings  ·  285 reviews
A vibrant and empowering history that emphasizes the perspectives and stories of African American women to show how they are--and have always been--instrumental in shaping our country

In centering Black women's stories, two award-winning historians seek both to empower African American women and to show their allies that Black women's unique ability to make their own commun
Hardcover, 273 pages
Published February 4th 2020 by Beacon Press
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The concept of “history” is so frustrating.

I want to live in a world where this book, or a book like it, is a textbook for U.S. history classes. I want to not have to scream at the sky on a daily basis just because of how mind-bogglingly limited our sense of history is. I want to have grown up learning the stories of the women outlined here, instead of idealized versions of Christopher Columbus and pilgrims and the civil rights movement I would later have to unlearn.

But alas.

The information gat
Jul 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, audio
I love this kind of history whose project is to challenge conventional, high level narratives of histories by showing where counter examples problematize the "official party line" of how the past unfolded. This book does that beautifully by showing that Black women have always been in the story of the United States, even when official records purposefully or incidentally elide or exclude them. This is such a reminder that Black women who have sought out "good trouble" throughout US history reall ...more
Jessica Howard
I read this whole thing today, and it was fascinating! It's shocking how much of black women's history isn't covered in mainstream history curriculum.

ETA, here's my full review.
Feb 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
what a completely devastating but thoroughly inspiring book! this should be required reading for anyone living in the united states. african-american women have indisputably shaped this country yet their hard work and sacrifices have been grossly underappreciated for the last four hundred years. each chapter of this book opens with a vignette of a bold woman–from isabel de olvera seeking safe passage in the year 1600 to millie and christine mckoy, conjoined twins, who were exploited and mistreat ...more
Lily Herman
Jun 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
There have been a lot of important conversations recently about anti-racism books for Americans at large (particularly ones that White people need to read), and I'm so glad that A Black Women's History of the United States has appeared in those discussions time and time again.

Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross have put together a viscerally painful, in-depth, infuriating, and spectacular look at the many struggles and triumphs of Black women throughout American history. I appreciated how cl
This was a really good book for what it was—a survey of Black women's roles throughout 400 plus years of North American history—but the relatively small 219 page count just wasn't enough space to really get into the sorts of details I really love when reading about history. I don't think we can discount the impact of the purpose of the book, though, since its entire aim is to place Black women back into the historical record, and it very much succeeds in that goal.

The book is also a hybrid creat
«Tens of thousands, perhaps millions, of African people were unceremoniously tossed into watery graves. There, in the rough waters of the Atlantic, the bones of African people—known only by their assigned number, if even that—still remain on the ocean floor.»

Free review copy from Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review

Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross state at the Author's Note of A Black Women's History of the
reading is my hustle
i have become more of a history enthusiast in past years. the more you read about history the more you understand that there is no single narrative about any time period. how could there be? still, it is what we are taught during our early education. this book recognizes the determination of black women who were important to the development of the US: activists, artists, spiritual leaders, midwives, & other trailblazers. i was completely absorbed while reading about the complexity of their lives ...more
Jan 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Sublime. I wish that I could adequately describe the joy that reading this book made me feel. It held space for me, my mother, my sister, my niece, my cousin, my grandmother and all of the ancestors - it is evidence that we were here and hope that we will continue leading the way. I am in awe of the personal sacrifice and scholarly commitment that was required by Dr. Daina Ramey Berry and Dr. Kali Nicole Gross to complete this work. They gave value and meaning to the lives of Black women silence ...more
Csimplot Simplot
Dec 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book!!!!
Porter Broyles
Feb 01, 2021 rated it liked it
The book starts a little weak, but gains strength as it goes along.

This may be in part because I generally don't care for this style of writing--anecdotal evidence being used as proof.

As the story progresses, I was better able to fix the story in my own understanding of the setting/situation, so the lack of evidence became less of an issue.

Still a pretty good book.
Alexis  (TheSlothReader)
Feb 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
A really in depth look at some famous and unheard of black women throughout American history. It covers all kind of black women: trans black women, queer black women, and disabled black women. They authors do a really good job of looking at historical documents and then using those to show the perspectives, realities, and injustices faced by black women throughout Anerican history.
Francesca Calarco
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
True to its title, A Black Women's History of the United States is a great resource on the subject-matter. Truthfully, I picked up this copy for a work-related book club, and am now actually using it a source for other work projects centering on American history and gender equity. Truly, it's a solid piece of research.

Perhaps my favorite element of this book, is how it tackles early history of black women in the United States. Popular historical literature tends to be sparse when it comes to eth
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
Daina Ramey Berry wrote a book that is both inspiring and brutal. Thoroughly researched, this one is an intensive and detailed overview of the lives of black women in the USA. Easy to read, this one will teach you things you didn't know even if you have previously studied the subject. Each chapter centers itself on a real woman and what she did with her life. Sojourner Truth, Katherine Johnson and Rosa Parks among many others. Some of these women's names are well-known. Others not at all.

At one
Jeida K.  Storey
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I have never been more moved, empowered, and humbled as a Black woman than I am in this very moment. Every one of these pages breathed life, inspiration, pride...but also told of the devastation and pain Black women have faced in this country. Drs. Berry and Gross took special care to center Black women (FINALLY!) in American history, some of whom I have known about and revered for years, but many I was acquainted with for the first time. Our history is rich and powerful and gritty and raw. ...more
Mark Ballinger
Mar 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This was filled with many fascinating stories, but all too often they were too short. I wanted to learn so much more about these women.

Part of this is the missing historical record of people who are not part of the dominant narrative. These women get no attention, as a line from the book says: "They may have glanced at her once, but they did not actually see her."
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
An overview of the lives of black women in the US that is both easy to read (i.e. not in academic language) and disturbing. Even for a reader who has already made an effort to learn about the history of American racism, there were some new things here. I particularly liked the anchoring of each chapter on the actions of a real person (which made the one chapter with an obviously imaginary person stand out; since there were real people mentioned later in the chapter I don't know why they did this ...more
Aug 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. I learned a lot and really appreciated the centering of the stories of Black women, especially when we'd heard about the events, but only knew about the men involved. And the discussions of both how white feminism has never addressed the needs and lives of Black women and how Black nationalism put Black women aside. ...more
Em Hoggatt
Dec 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Learned a bunch! Would definitely recommend this to any history buffs.
Make no mistake, the content in this book is five stars.

The reason I'm going with a solid 3.5, rounded up, is that I think the limitations of the Revisioning History series format meant making some hard choices in content to bring it to a "marketable" page count, and the book suffered for those limitations. There were simply parts that felt like it had been drastically edited and the remaining text not smoothly woven back together, perhaps due to space constraints. There is no fault here except
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-reads
This needs to be recommended reading in high schools across this country! But we know it will not! Not yet at least! We are still fighting...

Black Women have been an integral thread in the fabric of America for a long long time. Longer than before we were forcibly brought to these shores. We have shaped this country with our voices, our minds, our hands, our entire bodies.

Reading this well put together historical text, broke me and encouraged me. What Black Women have suffered and endured an
Misty DeRosier
Oct 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
My U.S. history classes in high school and college left so much of the story out. If yours did too, this book is for you! Beginning in the 1600’s each chapter tells what was going on for Black women in the U.S. at that time. I particularly liked how each chapter is framed by the story of an individual woman using primary sources. Speaking of primary sources, this book is filled with them. Did you know that many colonial Black women preferred to (and did all they could to be able to) give birth i ...more
Oct 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
In a perfect world, this would be text for a history class. I must admit though, I’d have liked more modern history... it’s fascinating to consider the connections between the past of America’s woc, and the present
Dec 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's not an everyday act to read a book that is inspiring and informative. A Black Women's History of the United States is not a summary of the lives of well-known women who are given cursory mention in a textbook, it is a concise and surprisingly thorough explanation of how Black women have always been role players in shaping the history of the United States, their communities, and their families. History is usually presented solely from the viewpoint of who won a war of physical strength, wits ...more
Sep 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-readings
Amazing book! I love learning NEW Black History and about Black Pioneers who aren't celebrated enough in our history. My final thought was Black History shouldn't just be crammed into one month. I also loved reading about how Black females have shaped the history of the US. We don't talk enough enough about Black females and their part in the Civil Rights movement beyond just mentioning Rosa Parks, or the other big names such as Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. We are a part of every major Bl ...more
Brian Conor
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A tour de force of American History, and how the US was built, challenged, and strengthened by Black Women, even when they were targeted for marginalization and destruction at every point and still today.
Grace Mc
Feb 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolutely excellent book - it has helped me revise my African-American History exam list and I would recommend it to anyone teaching African-American history or Black Women’s history more specifically.
A fantastic history. I would love even more specialized studies, of disabled black women, of LGBTQ+ black women, but the writers did a great job of being inclusive.
Janae Johnson
Jul 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! It was harrowing and difficult. So many things came to light that I had avoided or never understood. Each chapter was very descriptive and heartbreaking. It left me wanting to be a history teacher to help my students learn the bigger picture, not the white washed idealistic lessons we grew up with. The format of this book made it simple to read, understand, and retain the information.
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-reads
An important book that weaves the many stories and lives that Black women have led in the now-United States. Serves as an essential text to show that there is no "single story" of Black womanhood in this country and gives to Black women the individual and complex motivations that are always allowed in white historical figures. And now I want to read a ton of in-depth biographies to learn more about these remarkable women! ...more
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Daina Ramey Berry is an associate professor of history and African and African diaspora studies, and the George W. Littlefield Fellow in American History, at the University of Texas at Austin. An award-winning historian, she is also a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.

Author photo: Brenda Ladd Photography

Other books in the series

ReVisioning American History (5 books)
  • A Queer History of the United States
  • A Disability History of the United States
  • An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States (ReVisioning American History, #3)
  • An African American and Latinx History of the United States

Articles featuring this book

Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
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