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2/17/2013, 4:10 p.m.

The role of women in the fight for civil and social rights cannot be overstated. As one Freedom Rider explained recently, "Black women rarely had hold of the microphone, sometimes because of sexism, but they wrote the speeches, they organized the marches, planned the boycotts, took part in the sit-ins and demonstrations, and were beaten, arrested, sexually assaulted, and dehumanized for their efforts alongside the men." In the interim, these women earned degrees, reared families, inspired a new generation of God-fearing and patriotic Americans, and shared their love for life. The Washington Informer encourages its readers to study the vibrant history of African American women.

Among Our Top Picks:

Black Women as Cultural Readers, by Jacqueline Bobo

This work demonstrates that African-American women, as a separate interpretive community, view cultural products in a unique way. In interviews with black women, she examines their specific responses as spectators and consumers of films and novels, including Waiting to Exhale, The Color Purple, and Daughters of the Dust.

Living with Jim Crow: African American Women and Memories of the Segregated South, by Anne Valk and Leslie Brown

This groundbreaking book collects Black women's personal recollections of their public and private lives during the period of legal segregation in the American South. Using first-person narratives, collected through oral history interviews, the book emphasizes women's role in their families and communities, treating women as important actors in the economic, social, cultural, and political life of the segregated South. By focusing on the commonalities of women's experiences, as well as the ways that women's lives differed from the experiences of southern black men, Living with Jim Crow analyzes the interlocking forces of racism and sexism.

When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost by Joan Morgan

In this fresh, funky, and ferociously honest book, award-winning journalist Joan Morgan bravely probes the complex issues facing African-American women in today's world: a world where feminists often have not-so-clandestine affairs with the most sexist of men; where women who treasure their independence often prefer men who pick up the tab; and where the deluge of babymothers and babyfathers reminds Black women who long for marriage that traditional nuclear families are a reality for less than 40 percent of the African-American population.