ARTICLE: Millward on Black Women’s History and Mourning


Jessica Millward, “Black Women’s History and the Labor of Mourning,” Souls 18 (2016): 161- 165

Millward on mourning and doing histories of enslaved and free women of African descent:

“This special volume of Souls provides the occasion to discuss the hidden labor
involved in the production of Black women’s history. This article argues that contemporary violence against African Americans is influencing scholars to articulate a
vocabulary that publically acknowledges what we once kept quiet; that there is a psychological and sometimes physical cost associated producing monographs dedicated to
African American pain. The labors of writing about haunted and hunted subjects—that
is, African Americans in the face of sanctioned and unsanctioned violence—is produc-
ing a body of scholarship dedicated to grieving publically, be it in the form of formal
op-eds, or as tweets and Facebook posts. Inevitably, this increased attention to and
acceptance of mourning is shaping the field of African American women’s history.
By articulating the necessity to grieve and utilizing public spaces to mourn, African
American women’s historians are shaping an academic discourse to help process the
constant state of trauma that often accompanies our scholarly production….”

“…Reconstructing Folks’s life did not simply include stories of success. It also meant
trying to understand her pain—a historic pain born out of social conditions, legal
policies, and popular constructions that were anti-black, anti-woman, and for the
most part anti-black-women. In essence, I found myself often in mourning. Mourning her experiences; mourning her losses; mourning the conditions of those who
were enslaved and never freed. In addition to the emotional toll that reclaiming
her story claimed on my psyche, I also experienced severe health problems while
working on the project. Other scholars have been less public with their experience
but can recount the psychological stress and physical symptoms related to producing
a book on African American women…”

Read it all:

Join the Discussion

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s