Hilary Mac Austin and Kathleen Thompson

On Memorial Day 1943, two women decorated a soldier's grave in a Black section of Arlington National Cemetery. Photo by Esther Bubley. Office of War Information, Library of Congress.

One of the little poems of Paul Lawrence Dunbar that I learned way back, says, "A crust of bread and a corner to sleep in." Well, I didn't want a crust of bread. I wanted that soft, yeasty inside. And I didn't want a corner to sleep in. I wanted a house to sleep in. And then the poem says, "A minute to laugh--and an hour to weep in." Well, I didn't want that. I wanted an hour to laugh in and the minute to weep in. Next it say, "A pint of joy to a peck of trouble." You know I didn't want that. And I didn't want this other part that says, "Never a laugh--but the mourns come double, and that's life." We propose to do something better.

Cassie Swarm, Black Women in the Middle West Project

This couple was having a great time on a night out in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1939. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott. FSA. Library of Congress

Eunice Hunton Carter, the first Black woman D.A. in New York, was one of Thomas Dewey's "twenty against the underworld." National Archives

Showing a diversity of hairstyles worthy of a modern braiding salon, this engraving from the 1816 travels of J. B. Debret was originally captioned Esclaves de Negres de Differentes Nations. Library of Congress

We have loved in a space where love was not meant to be. We have measured our lives in sacrifices for our children and our men, and when we could no longer ignore our own needs, we have stood in defense of ourselves. . . .We have led revolutions--quiet and otherwise--and done it with style and grace. Even our hair is an expression of who we are: braids or locks, finger waves or weaves, perms or Afro puffs. We are finding ways to define ourselves, and in the process redefine America.

Marcia D. Davis, 1991