About 50 professors, students, faculty members and members of the Ann Arbor community gathered Wednesday afternoon in the Hatcher Graduate Library to listen to three University of Michigan faculty members discuss the recent publication of “Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women,” a collection of essays on the experiences and roles of Black women in the history of intellectuals.
Law Prof. Martha Jones, English Prof. Megan Sweeney and Tiya Miles professor of African Studies all spoke on the panel, who used the book as a platform to address the importance of uncovering the stories of Black women, and women in general, that often go untold.
“We want to unearth lies, ideas, narratives and analyze and interpret them,” Miles said to the audience.
Jones, one of the editors of the book, further encouraged the audience to strive for uncovering unknown narratives.
“Recovery is at the core of what we do, and there is still so much more we need to do,” she said.
Jones also recognized the importance of making the history more accessible to people outside of academia.
“I think many of the challenges that are attuned to doing Black women history will continue, and the burden will be on many of us, including those of us who are intellectuals, to take the work out of the academy and into the public sphere to be sure that the histories, as well as the perspectives that come, are available to everybody,” she said.
Miles provided evidence of the success of the book in expanding people’s views, despite occasional negative comments on the work.
“These are little steps forward,” she said.
Rackham student Michelle May-Curry, a member of the predominantly graduate student audience, said she admired every woman on the panel for their surprising conclusions.
“It’s astonishing how Black women's history has been relegated to the cracks,” May-Curry said. “If we’re going to talk about Black women, we have to piece it together and we have to know that many people will not take us seriously in starting those conversations.”
May-Curry also echoed panelists’ sentiments regarding the importance of uncovering and highlighting the history of Black women in academic settings.
“Our histories are being devalued in the classrooms and the archives, and this work is essential to uncovering that,” she said.
Jones mentioned after the event that she will be attending a Women’s March in Baltimore this Saturday.
“When I go to a women’s march on the 21st, wouldn't it be cool to carry a sack of these books and books like it?” Jones said. “It feels like there are going to be thousands of women and fellow travelers for whom this kind of knowledge and understanding is more pertinent perhaps than ever … maybe I will take a stack of books to the march.”