Author: Kathleen Thompson and Hilary Mac Austin
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Audience: Girls 5-17. This book will capture the attention of African American girls and teenagers.
Summary: This book creates a visual and written history of black women from Colonial America to the Present. The images tell stories of black women in America–the farm worker, teacher, dancer, doctor, midwife, athlete, religious worker, etc.
Genre: Photographic Essay
Literary Elements at work in the story: This is a book of pictorial history told in 302 images of strong, African American women throughout history. It emphasizes the life of these women in nine stories spotlighting a particular aspect of life: Family life, Work, Hair, Resistance, Class, Education, Religion and Community, Play and Inner Life. The images included in this book tells a story within themselves. They are moving, compelling, emotional and capture the reader’s attention. Each section gives a brief written history with descriptive captions and quotations, and other sources.
Theme: The complex and multidimensional lifestyle of African American women from the past to the present.
Perspective: African American women. When reading this book it gives the reader a glimpse of the multi facets of how it is be an African American woman in America. Not only does this book teach all African American women of their history, but, it allows one to step into the emotions of the images that are depicted. It will also make one proud of their heritage and awaken strengths that may be lying dormant.
Theology: While reading this book and being emotionally moved by the images, I thought of the Exodus experience. Personally, this book depicts a wilderness experience. By looking at the images I see so much pain, yet hope. The opening of the book of Exodus describes how the Egyptians oppressed the descendants of Jacob, subjecting them to forced labor. It was Moses, who Yahweh used to mediate Israel’s deliverance from slavery to oppression. This book displays and briefly tells the historical story of African American women and their wilderness or Exodus experience of slavery and depression.
The book also describes African American women displaying hospitality by loving her family, fighting for her people and helping each other to survive. African American women have always provided the nurture and care of the family, church, and community, whether in slavery or in freedom.
Also, obedience is captured in the book as it details how African America women were used by their male and female owners. If they were disobedient they endured harsh whipping, their bodies scarred, deformed and even death. Thru very harsh treatment they became submissive by unruly treatment.
Educational Use: One way to use this book to teach African American girls of their heritage is to be used in a workshop setting, a retreat for young girls, during black history month in Sunday school, a mother daughter luncheon, etc. I would also ask the girls to do a memory book or a collage of women who they feel have helped mold their identity. I would also ask them to write a brief journal telling how these women have motivated or helped them in any way.
Focused Scripture: Psalm 27:14, Isaiah 43:1, 2 Kings 43:1, Psalm 31:24, Matthew 25:40, 1 Peter 4:9-10, Deuteronomy 5:29, Deuteronomy 6:3, John 13:17
Faith Talk Questions:
- As you read this book and pondered over the images of the life of African American women, how can you see God being active in this culture of people down thru generations?
- In what ways does this book speak to you as an young African American female?
- If you could walk into the past and have a conversation with any of the women portrayed in the book, who would you choose and what do you think you may ask her to help you to develop and increase your faith?
Review prepared by Vera Witherspoon, MDiv, Entering cohort, Fall 2005
The Face of Our Past by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.