The dominant narrative

Last Wednesday, we briefly discussed about the style in which the Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women is written. While I agree that the formal style renders it a monotonous read, I believe it is important that this book exists. If my memory serves me correctly, TC felt similarly and added that if the book had not been written in a classical academic manner, it would risk not being seen as “legitimate”. As Professor Haley noted, this notion begs the question: who defines “legitimate”? Furthermore, why are entitled to do so?

Those in power shape the dominate narrative. Upperclass white men’s stories have traditionally comprised most of recorded history in the western hemisphere. As traditionally patriarchal institution, the Academy allowed (and continues) to allow those in power to define what is “legitimate”. When someone’s tale deviates from the dominate narrative, it is silenced.

The curriculum taught by American higher education (aka the Academy) perpetuates this dominant narrative. Growing up, I absolutely loved history class. By the time I got to college I became disenchanted with the subject because all too often I found myself reading the stories of people with whom I could not identity.  I became increasingly frustrated because our textbooks hardly mentioned women. Of course, my teachers would always designated a special day where we would talk about famous female historical figures. Even then, the narrative was dominated by white women’s stories. I cannot even begin to imagine the frustration experienced by my some of my peers. For too long, the stories of black women have been silenced by the dominant narrative. It is time that black women’s history be not only told, but also celebrated.

On another note, I think it would have been interesting if the authors of the Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women had expanded more on the actual historiography (the study of the methodology of history or the evolution of historical writing) chronicling these black women’s experiences. The authors did a superb explaining the obstacles they faced in collecting these women’s stories (especially in the introduction of the book). I just wish they had incorporated their analysis through out the body of the work.

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