At the time that Wallace wrote her book, the significance of African American women as a distinct category was routinely erased by the way in which the leaders of many women’s movements and African American movements chose to set their goals and recollect their histories. In 1978, practically no one discussed racial oppression and women’s oppression at the same time. In subsequent years, multicultural feminist inquiry would make such dualism less of a problem in the academy, but not among the general public.
Wallace, a professor of English at the City University of New York, grew up in New York City as the daughter of African American feminist artist Faith Ringgold. She attributed becoming a feminist in the 1970’s to her mother’s influence. However, Wallace also had a number of personal experiences with discrimination. She withdrew from historically African American Howard University at the end of her freshman year in 1970 after finding the misogynistic atmosphere at the school to be intolerable. While studying at the City College of New York, she studied under African American feminist writers Nikki Giovanni, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker. Wallace helped found the National Black Feminist Organization in the 1970’s.