The Faces of Our Past contributes to the literature on Black women in several ways. First, the realm of experiences depicted in each category proves that there was no one experience for all women. The images offer a new source for analyzing the differences between the experiences of Black and white women and between Black women in different environments. Second, the images are not merely used as illustration. The authors’ creative use of imagery with very informative captions and the limitation of their interpretation of each theme to brief overviews serve to raise the value of visual images as a primary source document. However, the drawback is that in some areas, a deeper interpretation would have been useful for contextual interpretation. In the section on hair, for example, only passing mention is given to natural and processed hair fashions, without commentary on how either style has historically affected and influenced Black female identity. Finally, the inclusion of contemporary images by contemporary artists broadens the scope of each theme by demonstrating that visual documentation in this area is an on-going process. It is unfortunate though that all sections do not carry the theme through the present. The images chosen by the authors are both moving and powerful. The Faces of Our Past is a welcome contribution to women’s history.


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May 2000