Stewart is among the few African-American women born in 1831 and able to develop literature on the plight of the African American women. Having been orphaned at the age of 5, she is raised in a clergy man’s home, and she struggles to gather the isolated fragments of education to acquaint herself with education. Having been born in an era where the Africa-Americans had no place in the society, she is challenged by the notion that she should remain buried behind the iron kettles in the kitchen forcing her to become radical and pursue education at all costs. The book is a major reflection of the struggle that she faces to regain her voice. She details of how her life as a child had changed dramatically in a manner that she did not understand herself. She further notes that people started viewing her in another despising dimension, as she grew older and more radical. She was often assaulted, until she eventually realized that being a working class African-American made her a lesser being as compared to those who were not African-Americans. She became smaller and eventually grew silent.
In her life, she challenged the African-American women to reject the negative images that are portrayed of the black identity noting that race, gender and class oppression is the major cause of their poverty. She deals with the Instability associated with the black identity by requiring of the black women to forge their own self-definitions, self-reliance and thus acquire independence. She adds that, it is useless for the black women to remain seated and let the whites make an evaluation of them based on their own stereotypes. She adds that women must Possess the spirit of independence as well as that of men, that she described as bold, enterprising, heavily undaunted, fearless (p. 53).
Moreover, she expresses that, there is every reason to pursue the rights and privileges and be acquainted of a reason as to why they cannot enjoy them. She notes that it is possible that one will die in the process but asserts that it is definite that one will die if they do not pursue the course. She emphasizes that women should use their special roles as mothers in the society and develops mechanisms of action. She is asserts, “O, ye mothers, what a responsibility rests on you!” she adds that it is upon the mothers to create certain mind-sets of their sons and daughters, such that they are thirsty for knowledge, love, virtue, as well as cultivation of a pure heart. She asks them not to say that they cannot make anything of their children, but urges them to say they will try (p.35).
Historically, we note that Stewart was among the first U. S black feminists who championed for unity among the African-American women by providing an avenue for women activism and self-determination. She notes that, at the time, the black women were thought to have no ambition or force. She argues the black women should get united and fund themselves so that in a period that she approximates to be about one and a half years, they have the ability to build their own high school. The above noted is one of the many ways that the author widely uses in dealing with instability in the black diaspora identity. Collective action is the main strategy that she emphasizes on, as a method to deal with the stereotypes and problems of the African-American women.
“Turn your attention to knowledge and improvement; for knowledge is power” (p. 41). She notes that education is another major away in which the African-American women must adopt in order to win the struggle. Remembering earlier, she notes that women should take action and create thirst for knowledge in their sons and daughters. It is evident that Stewart has a passion for education and views it as being another major strategy that would free the blacks. On (p. 31), she notes that she is aware of the sexual plight suffered by the African-American women at the time and, therefore, she sympathetically pleads with them noting, “ I plead the cause of virtue and the pure principles of morality”. For the whites who held the stereotype and mind-set that Africans are inferior, Stewart delivered a bitter response noting, “Our souls are fired with the same love of liberty and independence with which your souls are fired. . . . too much of your blood flows in our veins, too much of your colour in our skins, for us not to possess your spirits”(p. 40).
The author presents the African-American woman as an obscured person. Williams mentions “The coloured girl is not known and hence not believed in; she belongs to a race that is best designated by the term ‘problem,’ and she lives beneath the shadow of that problem which envelops and obscures her.” It is imperative that in this setting, the African female has no platform on which she can express herself due to the reason that she is obscured by her identity crisis. Stewart documents this as among the reasons as to why feminist literature did not surface in the past but just now.
It is imperative that according to Stewart, most of the African American women were brought into the united states as slaves and thus, race, class, gender, sexuality, nation, age, and ethnicity are the major forms of oppression that were faced at the time. At the time, the African-American women’s oppression, according to the author were classified into three interdependent dimensions. The first is exploitation of the black women’s labour that is well represented by a record of living in the ghetto, a strong symbol of economic alienation and instability. Political oppression is also a major problem that faced the black women. The black women could not enjoy most of the rights enjoyed by the white males (p. 56). For example, they had no right to vote, work in public office, or obtain justice.
Controlling images were used against the black women as another form of oppression. The oppressors used certain qualities that are attached to the black women as a symbol of their acceptance of oppression. The author notes the use of mammies, jezebels, pancake mix boxes as well as photos of black prostitutes (p. 5). When used together, the three measures were a web of economy that was setup to depict a polity, and ideological function, which was a highly effective social control system that kept the African–American women on a subordinate position (p.5). When we look into the original authoring of the book, we realize that the book is authored in a mixture of social and historical context especially where she explains that, the book reflects her struggle to regain her voice. She explains that she has been in a constant struggle to replace the external definitions that are developed by the stereotypes groups with her own self-defined viewpoint. The second factor is that she places the black women’s ideas at the centre of her analysis. On this note, she embraces the thought that the black feminists are put at a state of being listened to if only what they aim at saying is pleasant to the oppressor’s ears. It is thus apparent that the message often ends up distorted and the original intent lost. Therefore, she writes in an environment that does not favour the radical point of view and acknowledges that she does not write for fame. She writes to ensure the information reach as many readers as possible. Thirdly, in her work, she includes an array of quotations from African America women thinkers bringing a sense of diversity, richness, and power in the black women’s ideas.
In conclusion, the author deals with the evils that come with the African diasporic identity by encouraging the women to get united and fight for their rights. More importantly, she emphasizes on the importance of education and develops a school of thought that, there is the need to create a thirst for knowledge among the younger generation. The development of this literature is amid the era of the slave trade where women were required to serve at home attending to household chores. They were often associated with kettles and other household chores as that was the only place for them. At this point in time, they were not allowed to vote nor participate in the labour force especially in the formal employment. Continuous discrimination and harassment was common among the African-American women who had a tendency to do well, as they had to be reminded of their ‘Place’ in the society.