The complete history of African American women's participation in American politics must recognize not only their involvement in traditional political acts such as registering, voting, and holding office, but also those nontraditional activities in which they engaged long before gaining a ballot. Because African American women are simultaneously members of two groups that have suffered the nation's most blatant exclusion from the normal channels of access to civic life, African Americans and women, their political behavior has been largely overlooked by political scientists, who have tended to focus primarily on those actions that conform to the more restrictive definitions of politics. Utilizing extant social science literature and recent survey research findings by political science scholars, the quest for African American political man will encompass a historical overview in which traditional and nontraditional political actions will be examined. The first debate is that throughout their existence of the American continent, African American women have been engaged in political activity, the nature of which has been determined by the legal and cultural circumstances they faced at the time. The second is that African American women's political activities have been directed toward altering their disadvantaged status both as African Americans and as women. Third is the observation that, historically, African American women have escalated their political activity progressively, moving from a predominance of nontraditional activity to a predominance of traditional activity, and have emerged as prime users of these traditional avenues in contemporary American politics.
As enslaved African females they were the victims of dual oppression, one issuing from race and the other from sex. Subjected to the slave status ascribed to their African male kin, they were further victimized by a body of hostile public policy directed toward them as women.