TRAILBLAZERS Volume 2
Redefining American Art
POLITICS & PUBLIC SERVICE
The Chisholm Effect
COMPOSERS, SONGWRITERS & CONDUCTORS
Changing the Course of Music
In Volume 2, we learn about the first nationally-known Black women artists who played a huge role in establishing Black aesthetics in an art world that would not accept them. In the late nineteenth century, sculptor Edmonia Lewis was one of the first prominent Black women artists, and by the early twentieth century, women such as Augusta Savage, Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller, Alma Thomas, Laura Wheeler Waring, who emerged during the Harlem Renaissance, are well-documented. Readers learn about the first Black woman cartoonist Jackie Ormes, the political struggles of Elizabeth Catlett, and Betye Saar's defiance. A new generation of artists, like photographer Carrie Weems, Kara Elizabeth Walker, and Mickalene Thomas, have made inroads in the art world with major exhibitions, collector support, and gallery representation and gained auction records as never before, confirming what we knew all along—that Black women can create great art.
Today, as we witnessed the inauguration of America's first Black and Asian Indian vice president, Kamala Harris, we are reminded of Black women's role as strategists in politics and public service. Yet despite Black women's historic and ongoing robust participation in democracy, they remain among the least served by the electoral process. We realize that before notable politicians like Maxine Waters, Lori Lightfoot, and Karen Bass, women like Crystal Bird Fauset, Velvalea "Vel" Phillips, and Shirley Chisholm paved the way. A light is also shone on Black women who served on presidential cabinets like Patricia Robert Harris, Condeleeza Rice, and Loretta Lynch, and public servants like Carla Hayden and political strategist Donna Brazile, part of a historical continuum of Black woman activists. Black women have remained vigilant by pushing for better representation, beat voter suppression, stop police brutality, seek justice, and fight for quality health care, prison reform, housing and education for all.
The music industry, which has always been overwhelmingly White and male-dominated, has never treated women kindly, yet Black women have successfully infiltrated it for the past century. As a result, there exists a small but impressive goldmine of Black women composers, songwriters, and conductors, who have prevailed. We discover classical composers like Florence Beatrice Smith Price, the first to have a symphonic composition performed by a major American symphony orchestra. We celebrate highly acclaimed singer-songwriters like Valerie Simpson and Missy Elliot, conductor Jeri Lynne Johnson, and award-winning film and TV composer Kathryn Bostic, among many others. The influence of Black women composers, songwriters, and conductors runs deep through the veins of today's musical landscape.
The overall theme in this volume reflects Black women at the crossroads of their power. After 100 years, Black women have acquired a lineage and a political genealogy that have escaped some people's notice. David raises the challenges Black women must face to maintain this momentum.
“The first book in an anticipated six-volume set, TRAILBLAZERS is an inspiring, comprehensive work. With a multidisciplinary background in music, design, and poetry, David provides the model of activist scholarship that combines academic nuance and sophistication with an engaging writing style that is accessible to general readership, such as David’s essay that convincingly demonstrates how women served as the “foot soldiers” of the civil rights movement. Backed by impressive endnotes and references, each chapter is encyclopedic in breadth while offering fresh analytical insights into Black women who are well covered in the existing literature, like Rosa Parks. The choice to combine the topics of activism, dance, and sports makes for an eclectic collection . . . . Accompanied by dozens of stark, powerful black-and-white photographs and portraits, this is a visually arresting volume whose words match the power of its images. An exciting resource in a promising, thorough multivolume celebration of Black women."