In a time when there are daily accounts of black women falling prey to a justice system that seems stacked against them, it can seem like a new phenomenon. But the Association of Black Women Historians, or ABWH, wants people to remember that the systematic degradation and death of black women in this country is not new. In a statement of support for the #SayHerName and #BlackLivesMatter movements, ABWH says:
From the earliest days in the colonies when laws failed to punish the rape of black women, to the antebellum era where black women were brutally punished for resisting rapist-enslavers, to the post-emancipation period when the sexual and physical assault of black women went unabated, and right up through the Civil Rights Movement, the judicial system has failed us.
This history, together with recent incidents against black women and girls such as Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7, who a Detroit officer fatally shot while asleep at her grandmother’s house; Dajerria Becton, 14, who a Texas officer violently thrust to the pavement at a pool party; Natasha McKenna, 37, who a Virginia officer Tasered to death while in restraints in police custody; Tanisha Anderson, 37, who—during a mental health crisis—a Cleveland police slammed resulting in her death; and Rekia Boyd, 22, who an off-duty Chicago police officer shot in the back of the head, stand as a modern-day “Red Record” of state-sanctioned, anti-black female violence.
Read these five ABWH-recommended texts to put today’s war on black women into historical context:
- “Southern Horrors: Women and the Politics of Rape and Lynching,” by Crystal Feimster
- “At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance—A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power,” by Danielle McGuire
- “The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins: Justice, Gender, and the Origins of the LA Riots,” by Brenda Stevenson
- “They Left Great Marks on Me: African American Testimonies of Racial Violence from Emancipation to World War I,” by Kidada Williams
- “Concrete Demands: The Search for Black Power in the 20th Century,” by Rhonda Y. Williams
Check out the entire suggested reading list here.