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A Seat at the Table - Black Women Public Intellectuals in US History and Culture

A Seat at the Table

Black Women Public Intellectuals in US History and Culture

Edited by Hettie V. Williams & Melissa Ziobro
Hardcover : 9781496847515, 394 pages, 8 b&w illustrations, September 2023
Paperback : 9781496847522, 394 pages, 8 b&w illustrations, September 2023

A sounding of a profound, lasting imprint on intellectual history


Contributions by Omar H. Ali, Simone R. Barrett, Tejai Beulah, Sandra Bolzenius, Carol Fowler, Lacey P. Hunter, Tiera C. Moore, Tedi A. Pascarella, John Portlock, Lauren T. Rorie, Tanya L. Roth, Marissa Jackson Sow, Virginia L. Summey, Hettie V. Williams, and Melissa Ziobro

While Black women’s intellectual history continues to grow as an important subfield in historical studies, there remains a gap in scholarship devoted to the topic. To date, major volumes on American intellectual history tend to exclude the words, ideas, and contributions of these influential individuals. A Seat at the Table: Black Women Public Intellectuals in US History and Culture seeks to fill this void, presenting essays on African American women within the larger context of American intellectual history. Divided into four parts, the volume considers women in politics, art, government, journalism, media, education, and the military. Essays feature prominent figures such as Shirley Chisholm, Oprah Winfrey, journalist Charlotta Bass, and anti-abortion activist Mildred Fay Jefferson, as well as lesser-known individuals.

The anthology begins with a discussion of the founders in Black women’s public intellectualism, providing a framework for understanding the elements, structure, and concerns central to their lives and work in the nineteenth century. The second section focuses on leaders in the Black Christian intellectual tradition, the civil rights era, and modern politics. Part three examines Black women in society and culture in the twentieth century, with essays on such topics as artists in the New Negro era; Joycelyn Elders, a public servant and former surgeon general; and America’s foremost Black woman influencer, Oprah. Lastly, part four concerns Black women and their ideas about public service—particularly military service—with essays on service members during World War II and the post-WWII military. Taken as a whole, A Seat at the Table is an important anthology that helps to establish the validity and existence of heretofore neglected intellectual traditions in the public square.


"Williams and Ziobro have assembled a body of work that expands the parameters of Black women’s intellectual discourse. The fresh, innovative perspectives in A Seat at the Table challenge canonical thinking and urge us to reconsider who we conceive of as 'public intellectuals.'"

- Patricia G. Davis, author of Laying Claim: African American Cultural Memory and Southern Identity

"In this wide-ranging and groundbreaking book, the editors and contributors explore the foundations of Black women’s public intellectualism in the writings, sermons, and speeches of prophets, ministers, and Christian leaders before turning to an analysis of the many ways that Black women influenced American public life in the twentieth century. A Seat at the Table is a must-read for scholars and students of African American history writ large and Black intellectual history in particular."

- Christopher Cameron, professor of history, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

"Every chapter and section of A Seat at the Table is fascinating. . . . The field of American intellectual history has never been more vibrant as it is now. The continuing study of Black women intellectuals will keep the field fresh and healthy for years to come. A Seat at the Table is a reminder of that."

- Robert Greene II, Black Perspectives