A Shining Thread of Hope

A SHINING THREAD OF HOPE: THE HISTORY OF BLACK WOMEN IN AMERICA is an excellent survey of African American history that richly incorporates the viewpoints, experiences, and contributions of black women.

The book works on many levels. Darlene Clark Hine and Kathleen Thompson successfully weave together profiles of well-known black women who shaped history with biographical information about those who lived outside the realms of fame. They place these individual lives in larger contexts, dealing in the course of their chronological story with such major themes as slavery, abolition, religion, culture, education, rape and domestic violence, civil rights, forms of community, and individual leadership. While explicitly and implicitly addressing scholarly debates over interpretation of events in African American history (for example, changing perspectives about the composition of black families during slavery, or new understandings regarding motivations for migration), they avoid an overly academic tone and use well chosen anecdotal examples to enliven their narrative. Throughout, they emphasize the recovery of historical information about black women from primary sources and the retelling of history in a way that seriously engages issues of gender and honors black women’s ways of thinking, creating, and coping.

The result is a highly enjoyable, informative, and inclusive book that is a good read for novices and experts alike. Its thoroughness and even-handedness in the presentation of evidence and issues, and its inspirational emphasis on the triumph of black women over adversity, makes it an excellent choice for teachers seeking a key text for use in introductory college courses.