Introduction
notes from the author:
crime and black women’s history
As this place hath growne more popular and the people more increased,
Looseness and vice Hath also Creept in.
—Governor Markham, 1697 (quoted in Howard O. Sprogle,
The Philadelphia Police, Past and Present [Philadelphia, 1887], 31)
this book and its colorful—if not irreverent—title stem from a series of
events that occurred between 1995 and 1999, not the least significant of which
was my discovery of an early twentieth-century news article detailing the crime
of two ‘‘colored Amazons’’ in the City of Brotherly
Love.1
The most significant
event, however, took place in the spring of 1995 when I team-taught a seminar
to female inmates at the State Correctional Institution in Muncy, Pennsylva-
nia. My participation in that course, a survey of African-American women’s
history, marked a fledgling attempt to bridge the gap between my political
ideals and my professional training. By offering a class to women inmates—
90 percent of whom were African American—I hoped to use my historical
expertise to educate and empower these
students.2
At the same time, I believed that passing history on in this way kept true to
the legacy of black scholarship. African-American history, and much of Black
Studies, for that matter, was resurrected, collected, and ‘‘preached’’ not solely
for educational purposes but also for community empowerment, an empower-
ment that was political, social, and in many ways
psychological.3
Indeed, one
only need consider the works of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, W. E. B. Du Bois, and
Anna Julia Cooper or review Carter G. Woodson’s epistle The Mis-Education
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