The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004 Page: 630
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
As early as 16oo black women made a significant impact on the American
West. According to Dedra S. McDonald, African women, and Afrohispanas in
particular, were able to use the more fluid race boundaries of the culture to se-
cure good marriages and social standing. A place of mixed cultures and races,
the Spanish Southwest served as a region for women of African descent to build
communities, strengthen family ties, and influence cultural institutions. These
foundations later allowed for African American women of the antebellum West,
such as Mary Ellen Pleasant, to emerge as prominent businesswomen. However,
racism continued in the region, and, as Lynn M. Hudson's and Barbara Y.
Welke's articles demonstrate, black women began working for civil rights before
the Civil War, making small but important inroads.
Many African American women during the post-Civil War period focused
their attention on community building and reform, as westward migration rapid-
ly increased. Susan Bragg examines black women's educational reform in Sacra-
mento, while Peggy Riley's article demonstrates the importance of Union Bethel
American Methodist Episcopal Church in Great Falls, Montana, in establishing a
black community. Likewise, Ronald G. Coleman examines the struggle of Jane
Elizabeth Manning James, a black woman who was instrumental in the early de-
velopment of the Mormon Church.
During the twentieth century the struggle for civil rights emerged at the fore-
front of black women's activism. At the helm were women who hoped to obtain
better lives for themselves and their children. Scholars Moya B. Hansen,
Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo, and Claytee D. White examine the struggle black
women faced in finding employment. Although many African American women
worked as domestics and migrant workers, they made a significant impact on
both their communities and culture. Quintard Taylor demonstrates that even in
the Pacific Northwest, a region W. E. B. DuBois claimed lacked racism, black
women struggled to obtain social justice.
The book concludes with a look at African American women during the civil
rights movement. The articles collectively demonstrate the importance of wom-
en in what is often regarded as a male-dominated movement. Like the Mont-
gomery Bus Boycott, in which women instigated the movement and were then
overlooked, Cheryl Brown Henderson's article demonstrates the importance of
women's activism behind the Brown v. Board of Education landmark decision. In a
similar vein, Linda Williams Reese reminds readers that the sit-in movement ac-
tually began in Oklahoma City under the leadership of Clara Luper, while Mer-
line Pitre details Lulu B. White's activism and struggle to desegregate the
University of Texas. Finally, the section concludes with an interesting study by
Jane Rhodes about women's leadership in the Black Panthers.
African-American Women Confront the West contributes immensely to the fields of
African American, women's, and western history. Throughout the work are valu-
able primary sources that enhance the narratives. The work provides an excel-
lent starting point for scholars to delve into the importance of black women in
the settlement of the West. These women not only built communities and insti-
tutions, they struggled for civil rights and created a gender consciousness that
continues into the present.
Oklahoma State Universty
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004, periodical, 2004; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101224/m1/708/: accessed April 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.