LEAPING OVER THE OCEAN: Re-Reading Black Women’s Mobility in the 19th and Early 20th Century Trans-Atlantic World

Willi Coleman
New Academia Publishing, 2021
136 pages
ISBN 978-1-7359378-2-3 paperback

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About the Author

Willi Coleman is Professor Emerita of History at the University of Vermont. Her research has appeared in various publications including Oxford University Press, Yale University Press, Rutgers and University of Massachusetts Press.  She has delivered papers throughout the United States and as far away as Argentina, South Africa, Germany, England and France. She is a graduate of University of California and now lives in Greensboro, N.C.

LEAPING OVER THE OCEAN: Re-Reading Black Women’s Mobility in the 19th and Early 20th Century Trans-Atlantic World

Leaping Over The Ocean is a deliberate attempt to include/intrude specific Black women into existing narratives on race, gender and travel.   My focus here is on the lives and specific motivations that pushed and pulled four Black women across the Atlantic Ocean before and into the turn of the 20th century. That Sarah Mar’gru Kinson Green, Anna Julia Cooper, Sarah Parker Remond and Mary Church Terrell were all born between the early 1830’s and 1863 renders their travels all the more worthy of note. In an era when women across the globe were expected or required to remain tethered to hearth and home, three of this quartet found her own reasons to travel across the Atlantic Ocean more than one time. In doing so Mar’gru, Anna Julia, Sarah and Mary each provide insight into the many ways that the institution of slavery and new found freedom/s unfolded in the lives of Black women.  It is from this group that we hear some of the earliest Black female interrogation of race and gender issues both at home and abroad. With apparent fearlessness each found her own reasons to step aboard a steamship and with deliberation move well beyond the boundaries of her known world.


“With this meticulously researched and vividly written little gem of a book, Willi Coleman has put the “story” back into history.  Her book is very close to being a true page-turner, as Coleman deftly brings these remarkable women and the times they lived in to life.”

—Denise Youngblood, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Vermont


“This book highlights mobility as a key theme in African American history, a powerful intervention.  The author focuses on four women and delves not only into their lives but the motivations that propelled them across the Atlantic in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  All these women were born before emancipation, but the circumstances of their transatlantic crossings were all quite different.”

—Tiffany Gill, Associate Professor/Cochran Scholar, Africana Studies & History, University of Delaware