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TRAILBLAZERS Volume 3

LITERATURE

Asserting Our Words

BUSINESS

Beating the Odds

MILITARY

A Call to Arms

FILM, MUSIC & TV PRODUCTION

Capturing the American Experience

In Volume 3, readers realize that Black women poets and writers have tackled the hard work of representing a diverse spectrum of lived and imagined experiences. They shared stories of love and joy, political and social conversations, speaking for and about the people, inciting change and even revolution. Literary greats like Gwendolyn Brooks and Toni Morrison rest on the iconic firsts of Lucy Terry, Phillis Wheatley, and Harriet E. Wilson, and a new generation of writers who continue to blaze the trail like Natasha Trethewey and Jesmyn Ward. They all deserve unending recognition for their work.

We learn that Black ingenuity and entrepreneurship began during slavery with millionaire Mary Ellen Pleasant, to businesswomen Maggie Lena Walker, Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone, and Ernesta G. Procope, who paved the way for the likes of Oprah Winfrey. Beyoncé Knowles-Carter makes an appearance here as a businesswoman and as the first African American musician named on the Forbes and Fortune 500 lists, reminding us that despite the systemic attempts to marginalize, devalue, and erase their existence, Black women have always managed to "make a way out of no way."

 

Readers will explore the Black women who dared to pursue their right to serve in the United States Armed Forces, even when they were not considered American citizens and barred from official military status. They served as early as the Civil War, beginning with the nurse, cook, and laundress, Susie King Taylor, and Cathay Williams, who enlisted in the U.S. Regular Army as a man, and the determination and bravery of Olivia J. Hooker in the U.S. Navy, who served their country with distinction. Because of their tenacity, over 100 years later, we can celebrate the ascension of Black women in the military, like U.S. Navy Admiral Michelle Janine Howard (retired) and U.S. Marine Corp. Brigadier General Lorna Mahlock.

Although Black women filmmakers have been productive as early as the early 1900s, few have been able to break through the celluloid ceiling. Despite these challenges, notable contributions have been made by Black women in film, music, and television production, like pioneering filmmakers Madeline Anderson, Jessie Maple and Kathleen Collins, film directors like Gina Prince-Bythewood and Ava DuVernay, television producer Shonda Rhimes, and music producers Sylvia Robinson and Suzanne de Passe. Black women directors have created some of our time's most powerful, nuanced, and layered stories. From indie shorts to serious blockbusters and best-selling albums, Black women have proven essential in contributing a unique cinematic gaze and conquering the music studio.

 

In this volume, David argues that despite the constructions of culture, power, and the historical moment Black women face, they should continue to rely on their inner strength and trust the power of self. 

“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."

KIRKUS REVIEW

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