African American women have been placed on the periphery of most historical documents. In fact, the material traces holding the clues to their experiences are limited, heavily tainted, or virtually nonexistent. Given these circumstances, locating African American women's individual and collective identities is difficult and thus requires intensive and critical work in archival sources. It is usually under the most challenging archival conditions, however, that one must call most creatively and rigorously upon historical methods and theoretical ideas. This essay details my personal archival encounters as well as efforts to follow a trail of documents. Evaluating the claims of an alleged experience as well as theorizing from these same documents is an effort not only to recover voices but also to disrupt those canonical discourses that have too often rendered African American women invisible.


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pp. 187-196
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