Black feminism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Black feminism is a school of thought stating that sexism, class oppression, gender identity and racism are inextricably bound together.[1] The way these concepts relate to each other is called intersectionality, a term first coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989.[2] In her work, Crenshaw discussed Black feminism, which argues that the experience of being a black woman cannot be understood in terms of being black or of being a woman. Instead, each concept should be considered independently while including the interactions that frequently reinforce each other.[3]

Black feminism became popular in the 1960s, as a consequence of the Civil Rights Movement, which excluded women from leadership positions, and the perceived racism of the feminist movement. From the 1970s to 1980s, black feminists formed various groups which addressed the role of black women in black nationalism, gay liberation, and second-wave feminism. In the 1990s, the Anita Hill controversy placed black feminism in a mainstream light. Black feminist theories reached a wider audience in the 2010s, as a result of social media advocacy.[4]

Proponents of black feminism argue that black women are positioned within structures of power in fundamentally different ways from white women. In recent years, the distinction of black feminism has birthed the tag "white feminist", used to criticize feminists who do not acknowledge issues of intersectionality.[5] Critics of black feminism argue that racial division weakens the strength of the overall feminist movement.[6]

Among the notions that evolved out of the black feminist movement are Alice Walker's womanism, and historical revisionism with an increased focus on black women.[7][8] Angela Davis, bell hooks, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, and Patricia Hill Collins have emerged as leading academics on black feminism, whereas black celebrities, notably Beyoncé, have encouraged mainstream discussion of black feminism.[9][10]


Activist and cultural critic Angela Davis was one of the first people to articulate a written argument centered on intersectionality, in Women, Race, and Class.[11] Kimberle Crenshaw, a prominent feminist law theorist, gave the idea the name intersectionality in 1986–1987 as part of her work in anti-discrimination law, as part of describing the effects of compound discrimination against black women.[12]

Post-slavery period – 1920s[edit]

Beginning in the post slavery period, black female intellectuals that included Frances Ellen Watkins Harper set in motion the principles that would become the basis for black feminism. Harper's ideas, although not necessarily well known, were the beginning of black feminism. Activists, such as Harper, proposed "some of the most important questions of race, gender, and the work of Reconstruction in the nineteenth century", a very bold action for a black woman at the time.[13] These intellectuals accomplished things that were unheard of for black women, such as giving public lectures, fighting for suffrage, and aiding those in need of help following reconstruction. Suffrage was early evidence of schisms between white and black feminism. According to Harper, white women needed suffrage for education; however, "black women need the vote, not as a form of education, but as a form of protection".[13] In the 1920s women were also extended the right to vote, but it still was not truly taken seriously. The right to vote would not only bring these women closer to the power that men had, it would give black women an influence on the politics which oppressed them. Aspects of the work of early leaders such as Harper laid down the basis for black feminism, as these principles would continue to be retained by later iterations and evolutions of black feminism. Another extremely influential feminist in the African American culture was Katherine Ferguson. She pioneered the frist Sunday school which is not only a large accomplishment for a woman, but an incredible feat for an African American women. Katherine was separated from her mother at a young age because of slavery. Thankfully, as she grew older, slavery dwindled, and she was able to grow up to be a strong, independent feminist who was raised on religious texts. Throughout her life she encouraged many young women to join the lord's teachings and inspired them to be strong and powerful individuals. She was incredibly vital in the feminist movement because she pushed through boundaries and established herself without violence. She also overcame slavery repurcussions and fought through diversity with an incredible drive.

1920s to 1960[edit]

Although many wave metaphors of feminist and Civil Rights activism leave out the few decades after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, this was a particularly important moment in the development of black feminist activism.[13] During this period, a few radical black female activists joined the Communist party or focused on union activism. Although they did not all identify as feminists, their theorizing included important works that are the foundation for theories of intersectionality—integrating race, gender, and class. In 1940, for example, Esther V. Cooper (married name Esther Cooper Jackson), for example, wrote a M.A. thesis called "The Negro Woman Domestic Worker in Relation to Trade Unionism."[14] And in 1949 Claudia Jones wrote "An End to the Neglect of the Problems of the Negro Woman."[15]

Other feminist activism and organizing happened around cases of racial and sexual violence. For example, Esther Cooper and Rosa Parks organized to help Recy Taylor. In 1944, Taylor was the victim of a gang rape; Parks and Cooper attempted to bring the culprits to justice.[16] Black feminist activists focused on other similar cases, such as the 1949 arrest of and then death sentence issued to Rosa Lee Ingram, a victim of sexual violence. Defenders of Ingram included the famous black feminist Mary Church Terrell, who was an octogenarian at the time.[17]

1960s and 1970s[edit]

In the second half of the 20th century, black feminism as a political and social movement grew out of black women's feelings of discontent with both the Civil Rights Movement and the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

One of the foundation texts of black feminism is An Argument for Black Women's Liberation as a Revolutionary Force, authored by Mary Ann Weathers and published in 1969 in Cell 16's radical feminist magazine No More Fun and Games: A Journal of Female Liberation.[18] Weathers states her belief that "women's liberation should be considered as a strategy for an eventual tie-up with the entire revolutionary movement consisting of women, men, and children", but she posits that "[w]e women must start this thing rolling"[18] because

All women suffer oppression, even white women, particularly poor white women, and especially Indian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Oriental and Black American women whose oppression is tripled by any of the above-mentioned. But we do have females' oppression in common. This means that we can begin to talk to other women with this common factor and start building links with them and thereby build and transform the revolutionary force we are now beginning to amass.[18]

Black women and the Civil Rights Movement[edit]

Not only did the Civil Rights Movement primarily focus on the oppression of black men, but many black women faced severe sexism within civil rights groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. A group of women in the SNCC (who were later identified as white allies Mary King and Casey Hayden) openly challenged the way women were treated when they issued the "SNCC Position Paper (Women in the Movement)".[19] The paper listed 11 events in which women were treated as subordinate to men. According to the paper, women in SNCC did not have a chance to become the face of the organization, the top leaders, because they were assigned to clerical and housekeeping duties, whereas men were involved in decision-making.[20]

When Stokely Carmichael was elected Chair of SNCC, he reoriented the path of the organization towards Black Power. Thus, white women lost their influence and power in SNCC; Mary King and Casey Hayden left, to become active in pursuing equality for women.[21] While it is often argued that black women in the SNCC were significantly subjugated during the Carmichael era, Carmichael appointed several women to posts as project directors during his tenure as chairman. By the later half of the 1960s, more women were in charge of SNCC projects than during the first half.[22] Despite these improvements, the SNCC's leadership positions were occupied by men during the entirety of its existence.[23]

Angela Davis speaking at the University of Alberta on March 28, 2006

This combination of the raised fist of black power, and the astrological symbol for Venus, denotes an intersection of ideals of the two groups. Ideals were shared, such as a "critique on racial capitalism, starting with slavery". Despite this, black feminism had reasons to become independent of Black Nationalism. Black feminism had been cast "as a negotiation of the sexism and masculinism (and sometimes heterosexism) of Black Nationalism".[24]

Second-wave feminism[edit]

The second-wave feminist movement emerged in the 1960s, led by Betty Friedan. Some black women felt alienated by the main planks of the second-wave feminist movement. For example, earning the power to work outside the home was not seen as an accomplishment by black women. Many black women had to work both inside and outside the home for generations due to poverty.[25] Angela Davis wrote that while Afro-American women and white women were subjected to multiple unwilled pregnancies and had to clandestinely abort, Afro-American women were also suffering from compulsory sterilization programs.[26]

Some black feminists who were active in the early second-wave feminism include civil rights lawyer and author Florynce Kennedy, who co-authored one of the first books on abortion, 1971's Abortion Rap; Cellestine Ware, of New York's Stanton-Anthony Brigade; and Patricia Robinson. These women "tried to show the connections between racism and male dominance" in society.[27]

Throughout the 20th century, black feminism evolved quite differently from mainstream feminism. It retained historical principles, while being influenced by new thinkers such as Alice Walker. Walker created a whole new subsect of black feminism, called Womanism, which emphasized the degree of the oppression black women faced when compared to white women. In addition, she stressed the importance of heritage in black feminism through the medium of literature, exemplified by a 2011 interview.

Black lesbian feminism[edit]

Black lesbian feminism is a political identity and movement that incorporates perspectives, experiences, and politics around race, gender, class, and sexual orientation.[28] It was created in response to the exclusion of racial experiences within mainstream, lesbian feminist agenda. Hence, this form of lesbian feminism emphasizes its focus on expanding lesbian feminism to incorporate solidarity.[29]


Black lesbian feminists were often ostracized in mainstream black movements based on their gender and sexual orientation; and, in mainstream feminism, and black lesbian feminists were often excluded in lesbian feminism based on race.[30] During the 1970s, lesbian feminists created their own sector of feminism in reaction to homophobia and lesbian exclusion in the mainstream Second-Wave Feminist agenda. Lesbian feminism created a radical agenda focused on challenging homophobia; finding a place in feminism; and, for some, separatist notions. Additionally, some lesbian feminists were involved in black power movements, and vocalized the need for the inclusion of people of color. However, these perspectives on race and sexuality were not accepted by the mainstream, lesbian feminism; and, black lesbian feminists felt excluded from this movement.[31]

In 1970, a defining moment for black lesbian feminists occurred at the Black Panther’s Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Several black lesbian feminists confronted a group of white, lesbian feminists about their racially, exclusive agenda. Following this event, several groups began to include and organize around black lesbian politics. For example, in 1973 the National Black Feminist Organization was founded and included lesbian agenda.[31] Additionally, in 1975 the Combahee River Collective was founded out of experiences and feelings of sexism in the black power movements and racism in the lesbian feminist movement.[29] The primary focus of this collective was to fight interlocking systems of oppression; raise awareness of these systems; and, create a group made up of differences but connected by solidarity.[30] Lastly, in 1978 the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gay Men was founded.[31] In addition to the multiple organizations that focused on black, lesbian feminism, there were many authors that contributed to this movement such as, Audre Lorde, Barbara Smith, Pat Parker, Kate Rushin, doris davenport, Cheryl Clarke, Margaret Sloan-Hunter, and a number of others.[32]


Black women's voices were continuously marginalized but groups were formed that stood up in the face of oppression. In the early 1990s, AWARE (African Woman's Action for Revolutionary Exchange) was formed in New York by Reena Walker and Laura Peoples after an inspiring plenary session on black women's issues held at the Malcolm X Conference at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) entitled Black Women and Black Liberation: Fighting Oppression and Building Unity.[33]

In 1991, The Malcolm X Conference was held again at BMCC and the theme that year was "Sisters Remember Malcolm X: A Legacy to be Transformed". It featured plenary sessions, "Sexual Harassment: Race, Gender and Power" and was held in a much larger theater that year. Black women were a central focus and not an aside as they were prior. Speakers included Sonia Sanchez, Audre Lorde, Verniece Miller, Reena Walker, Carol Bullard (Asha Bandele) and Vivian Morrison.[34] In 1991, Reena Walker along with the members of AWARE also worked in coalition with AWIDOO (American Women in Defense of Ourselves), formed by Barbara Ransby, to sign a full-page ad in The New York Times to stand in support of Anita Hill.[35]

In 1995, Reena Walker went on to put out the call to various women and organized the group African Americans Against Violence[36] that effectively stopped a parade that a group of reverends led by Al Sharpton were attempting to hold in Harlem for Mike Tyson.[37] The group, including Eve and Kathe Sandler, Nsia Bandele and Indigo Washington, worked tirelessly and successfully stopped the parade from happening, bringing much needed attention to the struggle of black women and sexism and domestic violence.[38] A supporter of Mike Tyson, social worker Bill Jones, exclaimed "The man has paid his debt" (in regards to Tyson's rape conviction), and joined a large group of other Tyson supporters in heckling the African Americans Against Violence group, accusing them of "catering to white radical feminists".[38]

21st century[edit]

The new century has brought about a shift in thinking away from "traditional" feminism. Third wave feminism claimed the need for more intersectionality in feminist activism and the inclusion of black and other ethnic minority women. Moreover, the advancement of technology has fostered the development of a new digital feminism. This online activism involves the use of "Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, and other forms of social media to discuss gender equality and social justice. According to NOW Toronto, the internet has created a "call-out" culture, in which sexism or misogyny can be called out and challenged immediately with relative ease."[39]

As an academic response to this shift, many scholars have incorporated queer of color critique into their discussions of feminism and queer theory.[40][41] Queer of color critiques seeks an intersectional approach to disidentifying with the larger themes of "racialized heteronormativity and heteropatriarchy" in order to create a more representative and revolutionary critique of social categories.[42][43][44] An example of queer of color critique can be seen in the Combahee River Collective's statement, which addresses the intersectionality of oppressions faced by black lesbians.[45]


The 2010s have seen a revitalization of Black Feminism as a result of "black feminist thought spreading via big and small screens". As more and more influential figures began to identify themselves as feminist, social media saw a rise in young black feminists willing to "push the conversation forward" and bring racist and sexist situations to light.[46] Assistant professor in the Department of Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, Brittney Cooper, states "I think Black feminism is in one of the strongest moments it has seen in a while; From Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC, to Laverne Cox on Orange Is the New Black to Beyoncé ... we have prominent Black women identifying publicly with the term."[47] Social media proves to be an effective medium for young black feminists to express praise or discontent with organizations' representations of black women. For example, the 2015 and 2016 Victoria's Secret Fashion Shows were commended for letting four black models wear their natural hair on the runway. Black feminists on social media celebrated the embrace of the Natural hair movement using the hashtags #melanin and #blackgirlmagic.[48] Supposed instances of the "appropriation" of black culture have bee commented on in social media. For example, a 2015 Vogue Italia photo shoot involving model Gigi Hadid wearing an afro sparked some backlash on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Some users claimed it was problematic and racist to have a non-black model wear an afro and a fake tan to give the appearance of blackness when the fashion magazine could have hired a black model instead.[49] Kearie Daniel wrote that white people wearing certain hairstyles is a particularly touchy subject in black feminism is because of the perceived double standard that when white women wear black hairstyles, they are deemed "trendy" or "edgy" while black women are labelled "ghetto" or "unprofessional".[50]

Black feminists have also voiced the importance of increasing representation of black women in television and movies. According to a 2014 study by the University of Southern California, of the 100 top films of that year "nearly three-quarters of all characters were white," NPR reports, and only 17 of those 100 top movies featured non-white lead or co-lead actors. Of course, that number is even lower if you just look at non-white women leads, considering only one-third of speaking roles were for women, according to the same study.[51] The lack of representation of black men and women was attributed to the misconception that minority lead characters do not appeal to audiences as well as white characters, especially overseas. However, that excuse is consistently debunked when films centered around black characters fare quite well globally, including, but not limited to, the 2011 film, The Help (film), and the 2016 film, Hidden Figures. Both films had multiple black women in lead roles, were lasting box office successes, and were nominated for multiple Academy Awards. Additionally, the idea that minority lead characters do not sell movies fails to acknowledge the fact that movies centered around white characters are just as able to do poorly.[52]

In 2017, Black women rarely have positive role models in the media. Kimberl'e Crenshaw from the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) states, "The widespread coverage of race and gender inequality in Hollywood often excludes black women. The wage gap for black women in the entertainment industry is a symptom of a larger issue: the invisibility and devaluing of black women in media culture as performers, producers, and directors. " Black feminists are not present in modern media. Black Feminists need to make progress in their movement by creating a media platform to help advocate their voices and to inspire others.[53]

Black Lives Matter[edit]

Black Lives Matter, an activist movement that was formed to campaign against racism and police brutality against African Americans."The Black Lives Matter Global Network is a chapter-based, member-led organization whose mission is to build local power and to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes (BLM, n.d).[54] " This has contributed to a revitalization and re-examining of the Black Feminist movement.[55] The movement itself was started by three black women, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. It was in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman (BLM, n.d).[54] While these men played a major part in Black Lives Matter movement, Rekia Boyd, Michelle Cusseaux, Tanisha Anderson, Shelly Frey, Yvette Smith, Eleanor Bumpurs, and others were also been killed, assaulted, and victimized by the police but these cases were silent. This has been viewed as a Black Feminist Movement first, rather than as a part of the larger feminist movement.[56] Black Lives Matter largely accepts the intersectionality of women of color, and how interlocking systems of oppression work against African American women in particular.[57]

The movement has also been critical of White Feminism as only focusing on the oppression of white women and not looking at how intersectionalities of class, race, and culture have been harming marginalized groups.[58] According to BLM, “As organizers who work with everyday people, BLM members see and understand significant gaps in movement spaces and leadership. Black liberation movements in this country have created room, space, and leadership mostly for Black heterosexual, cisgender men—leaving women, queer and transgender people, and others either out of the movement or in the background to move the work forward with little or no recognition. As a network, we have always recognized the need to center the leadership of women and queer and trans people (n.d.).[54] According to academic scholar Angela Davis, “Black Women face a triple oppression” of racism, classism, and sexism and Black Lives Matter has been a largely grassroots movement focused on including inter-sectional voices.[59] Activism of Black Feminists in Black Lives Matter include the protests of political candidates such as Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton and hashtags such as #oscarssowhite, and #sayhername.[60] “The Say Her Name hashtag was initiative launched in May, documents and analyzes black women’s experiences of police violence and explains what we lose when we ignore them We not only miss half the facts, we fundamentally fail to grasp how the laws, policies, and the culture that underpin gender inequalities are reinforced by America’s racial divide” (Asoka & Chatelain, 2015)[61]

Black feminist identity politics and safe spaces[edit]

Black feminist identity politics can be defined as knowing and understanding one's own identity while taking into consideration both personal experience as well as the experiences of those in history to help form a group of like-minded individuals who seek change in the political framework of society.[62] It also can be defined as a rejection of oppressive measures taken against one's group, especially in terms of political injustice.[62]

Black feminist writer Patricia Hill Collins believes that this 'outsider within' seclusion suffered by black women was created through the domestic sphere, where black women were considered separate from the perceived white elite who claimed their dominance over them.[63] They also felt a disconnect between the black men's suffering and oppression.[63] As a result of white feminists excluding black women from their discourse, black feminists expressed their own experiences of marginalization and empowered black consciousness in society.[63] Due to the diverse experiences of black women, it is imperative to Collins to speak for and of personal accounts of black women's oppression.[63]

Identity politics have often implemented race, class, and gender as isolated categories as a means of excluding those who aren't perceived as part of the dominant group.[64] These constructed biases formed from race, class, and gender are what feminist Kimberle Crenshaw believes need to be used, not as a means of degradation, but as a form of empowerment and self-worth.[64] Ignoring these differences only creates more of a divide between social movements and other feminist groups, especially in the case of violence against women where the caliber of violence is correlated with components such as race and class.[64]

Another issue of identity politics is the conflict of group formations and safe spaces for black women.[62] In the 1970s, increased literacy among black women promoted writing and scholarship as an outlet for feminist discourse where they could have their voices heard.[62] As a result, black women sought solace in safe spaces that gave them the freedom to discuss issues of oppression and segregation that ultimately promoted unity as well as a means of achieving social justice.[62]

As the notion of color-blindness advocated for a desegregation in institutions, black women faced new issues of identity politics and looked for a new safe space to express their concerns.[62] This was met with a lot of contention as people saw these black female groups as exclusive and separatist.[62] Dominant groups, especially involved in the political sphere, found these safe spaces threatening because they were away from the public eye and were therefore unable to be regulated by the higher and more powerful political groups.[62]

Despite the growth in feminist discourse regarding black identity politics, some men disagree with the black feminist identity politics movement.[65] Some black novelists, such as Kwame Anthony Appiah, uphold the notion of color-blindness and dismiss identity politics as a proper means of achieving social justice.[65] To him, identity politics is an exclusionary device implemented in black culture and history, like hip hop and jazz, that limit outsider comprehension and access.[65] However, writer Jeffery A. Tucker believes that identity politics serves as a foundation where such color-blindness can finally be achieved in the long run if implemented and understood within society.[65] It can be the beginning of the black feminist movement's growth and hope for change.[65]


Black feminist organizations had to overcome different challenges that no other feminist organization was forced to face. Firstly, these women had to "prove to other black women that feminism was not only for white women".[66] They also had to demand that white women "share power with them and affirm diversity" and "fight the misogynist tendencies of Black Nationalism".[66] With all the challenges these women had to face, many activists referred to black feminists as "war weary warriors".

The short-lived National Black Feminist Organization was founded in 1973 in New York by Margaret Sloan-Hunter and others (The NBFO stopped operating nationally in 1975[67]). This organization of women focused on the interconnectedness of the many prejudices faced by African-American women, such as racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.[68] In 1975, Barbara Smith, Beverly Smith, Cheryl L. Clarke, Akasha Gloria Hull, and other female activists tied to the Civil Rights Movement, Black Nationalism or the Black Panther Party established, as an offshoot of the National Black Feminist Organization, the Combahee River Collective, a radical lesbian feminist group. Their founding text referred to important female figures of the abolitionist movement, such as Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frances E. W. Harper, Ida B. Welles Barnett and Mary Church Terrell, president of the National Association of Colored Women founded in 1896. The Combahee River Collective opposed the practice of lesbian separatism, considering that, in practice, Separatists focused exclusively on sexist oppression and not on other oppressions (race, class, etc.)[69]

The Combahee River Collective was one of the most important black socialist feminist organizations of all time. This group began meeting in Boston in 1974, a time when socialist feminism was thriving in Boston. The name Combahee River Collective was suggested by the founder and African-American lesbian feminist, Barbara Smith, and refers to the campaign led by Harriet Tubman who freed 750 slaves near the Combahee River in South Carolina in 1863. Smith said they wanted the name to mean something to African-American women, and that "it was a way of talking about ourselves being on a continuum of black struggle, of black women's struggle".[70] The Combahee River Collective, in particular on the impulse of Barbara Smith, would engage itself in various publications on feminism, showing that the position of Black women was specific and adding a new perspective to women's studies, mainly written by white women.

The members of this organization consisted of many former members of other political organizations that worked within the civil rights movement, anti-war movement, labor movement, and others. Demita Frazier, co-founder of the Combahee River Collective says these women from other movements found themselves "in conflict with the lack of a feminist analysis and in many cases were left feeling divided against [themselves]."[71] The Combahee River Collective argued in 1974 that the liberation of black women entails freedom for all people, since it would require the end of racism, sexism, and class oppression.[72]

As an organization, they were labeled as troublemakers and many said they were brainwashed by the man hating white feminist, that they didn't have their own mind, and they were just following in the white woman's footsteps.[71] Throughout the 1970s, the Combahee River Collective met weekly to discuss the different issues concerning black feminists. They also held retreats throughout the Northeast from 1977 to 1979 to help "institutionalize black feminism" and develop an "ideological separation from white feminism".[71]

As an organization they founded a local battered women's shelter and worked in partnership with all community activists, women and men, gay and straight playing an active role in the reproductive rights movement.[71] The Combahee River Collective ended their work together in 1980 and is now most widely remembered for developing the Combahee River Collective Statement, a key document in the history of contemporary black feminism and the development of the concepts of identity.[71]

Black feminist literature[edit]

The importance of identity[edit]

Michelle Cliff believes that there is continuity "in the written work of many African American Women, ... you can draw a line from the slave narrative of Linda Brent to Elizabeth Keckley's life, to Their Eyes were Watching God (by Zora Neale Hurston) to Coming of Age in Mississippi (Anne Moody) to Sula (by Toni Morrison), to the Salt Eaters (by Toni Cade Bambara) to Praise Song for the Widow (by Paule Marshall)." Cliff believes that all of these women, through their stories, "Work against the odds to claim the 'I'".[73]


  • 1968, Coming of Age in Mississippi, the autobiography of Anne Moody brings the idea of black feminism into focus, stating: "We were told in the same breath to be quiet both for the sake of being 'ladylike' and to make us less objectionable in the eyes of white people."
  • 1970, Black Woman's Manifesto, published by the Third World Women's Alliance, argued for a specificity of oppression against Black women. Co-signed by Gayle Lynch, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Maxine Williams, Frances M Beale and Linda La Rue, the manifesto, opposing both racism and capitalism, stated that "the black woman is demanding a new set of female definitions and a recognition of herself of a citizen, companion and confidant, not a matriarchal villain or a step stool baby-maker. Role integration advocates the complementary recognition of man and woman, not the competitive recognition of same."[74]
  • 1973, Alice Walker's short story "Everyday Use" emphasizes the importance of black heritage and understand historical influences with a character who changes her name because "[she] couldn’t bear being named for the people who oppress [her]" and her mother who then traces her birth name back into their own family tree (Walker). In this short story, an emphasis is also put on the lack of education available for black women at that time, further elaborating the oppression and plight of black women throughout history.
  • 1979, Barbara Smith and Lorraine Bethel edited the Autumn 1979 issue of Conditions. Conditions 5 was "the first widely distributed collection of Black feminist writing in the U.S."[75] Articles from the magazine were later released in Home Girls, an anthology of black lesbian and feminist writing published in 1983 by Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, a publishing imprint owned and operated by women of color.
  • 1982,The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, a founder of womanism, is a novel with prevalent themes of sexism and racism. The novel tells the tale of a Black woman struggling to find her identity and battle internalized oppression in the midst of abuse.
  • 1982, All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women's Studies, is a comprehensive collection of black feminist scholarship.
  • 1984, When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America is a historical narrative written by African American historian Paula Giddings. In her book, Giddings traces the black woman’s experience from the 17th century to the present day. With the use of interviews and other primary sources, Giddings brings illumination to the social theory of double discrimination, in which she argues that black women face the unique struggle of not only combating racism within white feminist circles but the patriarchal structure that envelops black political movements
  • 1992, Black feminists mobilized "a remarkable national response" to the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas Senate Hearings in 1991, naming their effort African American Women in Defense of Ourselves.[76]
  • 2000, In her introduction to the 2000 reissue of the 1983 black feminist anthology Home Girls, theorist and author Barbara Smith states her opinion that "to this day most Black women are unwilling to jeopardize their 'racial credibility' (as defined by Black men) to address the realities of sexism."[77] Smith also notes that "even fewer are willing to bring up homophobia and heterosexism, which are, of course, inextricably linked to gender oppression."[77]
  • 2000+, Rebecca Walker's writings – especially Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self and One Big Happy Family: 18 Writers Talk About Polyamory, Open Adoption, Mixed Marriage, Househusbandry, Single Motherhood, and Other Realities of Truly Modern Love – evince an interest in black feminism, racism, and her own biracial status.
  • 2009, Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Clinton, by Associate Professor Duchess Harris, analyzes black women's involvement in American political life, focusing on what they did to gain political power between 1961 and 2001, and why, in many cases, they did not succeed.

The involvement of Pat Parker in the black feminist movement was reflected in her writings as a poet. Her work inspired other black feminist poets such as Hattie Gossett.[78] Other Black feminist authors include: Jewelle Gomez, June Jordan, bell hooks, Sapphire, Becky Birtha, Donna Allegra, Cheryl Clarke, Ann Allen Shockley, and Alexis De Veaux.[citation needed]

The music of singer-songwriters Meshell Ndegeocello, Odetta, Thomasina Winslow, and Tracy Chapman have lyrics that discuss issues in black feminism.


Many of Beyoncé songs have feminist themes, such as "Pretty Hurts" and "Flawless", that focus on female empowerment, body image, and sexuality. Her sixth studio album, Lemonade, addresses her culture, heritage, marriage, and partner's promiscuity. The 60-minute film that accompanied the album included a primarily African-American cast. At the end of her 2014 VMA performance, Beyonce stood on stand with "FEMINIST" displayed across the screen in huge block letters. For her 2016 VMA performance, Beyoncé ended with her dancers laying on the ground around her and forming a female gender symbol.[79][80][81][82]

Amandla Stenberg approaches feminism as a way to dismantle patriarchy, empower women, and fight discrimination. She focuses on intersectionality and making sure that black and queer women are included within the movement, as a non-binary black woman herself. She is openly against cultural appropriation and has used her platform to criticize it, such as her video, "Don't Cash Crop My Cornrows", targeting Kylie Jenner. Ms. Foundation for Women named her "Feminist of the Year" in 2015. She appears in Beyoncé's "Formation" music video, which focuses on embracing one's blackness and supports Black Lives Matter.[83][84]

In 2015, E! host, Guiliana Rancic made comments about Zendaya's dreadlocks on the red carpet at the 87th Academy Awards. In response to Rancic's remark that Zendaya looked like she smelled of weed, Zendaya took to Instagram to address discrimination, stereotyping, ignorance, and body shaming.[85]

Solange Knowles also considers herself a black feminist and womanist. "'I am a proud black feminist and womanist and I'm extremely proud of the work that's being done. I'm a feminist who wants not only to hear the term intersectionality, but actually feel it, and see the evolution of what intersectional feminism can actually achieve. I want women's rights to be equally honored, and uplifted, and heard...but I want to see us fighting the fight for all women — women of color, our LGBTQ sisters, our Muslim sisters. I want to see millions of us marching out there for our rights, and I want to see us out there marching for the rights of women like Dajerria Becton, who was body slammed by a cop while she was in her swimsuit for simply existing as a young, vocal, black girl. I think we are inching closer and closer there, and for that, I am very proud.'[86]" Solange's album A Seat At the Table provides a visually artistic representation of current world issues and the racial climate.

Big Joanie are a self identified black feminist punk trio based out of London. The group made up of Chardine Taylor-Stone, Steph Phillips, and Estella Adeyeri are best known for their punk cover of "No Scrubs" by TLC. They focus on black female empowerment, even citing Melissa Harris-Perry as an inspiration for their song "Crooked Room." The band are also involved in organising London's Decolonise Fest, an ethnic minority punk music festival which is held at the DIY Space for London.[87]

Alice Walker is an author who best known for her novels the “Meridian” and “The Color Purple”. She also has written tons of other novels, poems, short stories, and essays. She first introduced the word “Womanist” in her novel called “In search of our Mothers; Gardens: Womanist Prose, which was published in 1983/[88] Walker written that novel out of a reaction that the term “feminism” did not take into consideration of the perspectives of black women. This novel sought to expand the ideology of the Women’s Liberation Movement that primarily focused on “white middle-class women problems”.[89] How the term “Womanist” expands the Women’s Liberation Movement is that it includes the issues on race and class that also impacts the feminism cause. It is important to know that that term “Womanist”, which is now called “Black Feminism” which is an expansion to the term feminism.

Beverly Guy- Sheftall is a writer, editor, activist, and professor at Spelman College, teaching courses in feminist theory and Global Black Feminism. Also, she is the founding director of the “Women’s Research and Resource Center”. As a professor she decided to help broaden the exclusivity in the Women’s Studies Movement by making sure that it fully represented African Americans. Beverly Guy- Sheftall did that by “publishing articles about black feminism and editing books that were written by other African American women”.[88] In later years she co-edited a book called “Sturdy Black Bridges: Visions of Black Women in Literature”, which happened to be the first “anthropology of African American women’s writings".[88] She has been rewarded with numerous fellowships and awards such as the “Woodrow Wilson Fellowship for dissertations in Women’s Studies”.[90] She continues to be an advocated in the black feminism community by advocating for social justice for African American women.

Outside the United States[edit]

  • The African Feminist Forum is a biennial conference that brings together African feminism activists to deliberate on issues of key concern to the feminist movement. It took place for the first time in November 2006 in Accra, Ghana
  • Starting around 2000, the third wave of feminism in France took interest in the relations between sexism and racism, with a certain amount of studies dedicated to black feminism. This new focus was displayed by the translation, in 2007, of the first anthology of U.S. black feminist texts.[91]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Defining Black Feminist Thought". Retrieved May 31, 2007. 
  2. ^ Crenshaw, Kimberle (January 1, 1989). "Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics". The University of Chicago Legal Forum. 140: 139–167. 
  3. ^ "Intersectionality: The Double Bind of Race and Gender" (PDF). 
  4. ^ Jamilah, Lemieux (March 3, 2014). "Black Feminism Goes Viral". Retrieved August 12, 2015. 
  5. ^ Blay, Zeba; Gray, Emma (August 10, 2015). "Why We Need To Talk About White Feminism". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 12, 2015. 
  6. ^ Epstein, Barbara. "What Happened to the Women's Movement?". Monthly Review. Retrieved August 12, 2015. 
  7. ^ Williams, Sherley Anne, "Some implications of womanist theory", Callaloo (1986): 303-308.
  8. ^ James, Joy (2014). Transcending the Talented Tenth: Black Leaders and American Intellectuals. Routledge. 
  9. ^ Hare, Breeanna (December 12, 2014). "Beyonce opens up on feminism, fame and marriage". CNN. Retrieved August 12, 2015. 
  10. ^ Tinsley, Omise’eke Natasha (November 7, 2014). "Black Feminism Lite? More Like Beyoncé Has Taught Us Black Feminism Light". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 12, 2015. 
  11. ^ Smith, Sharon (2013). "Black feminism and intersectionality". International Socialist Review. Retrieved March 23, 2016. 
  12. ^ Adewunmi, Bim (April 2, 2014). "Kimberlé Crenshaw on intersectionality: "I wanted to come up with an everyday metaphor that anyone could use"". New Statesman. Retrieved March 23, 2016. 
  13. ^ a b c Hewitt, Nancy (2010). No Permanent Waves: Recasting Histories of U.S. Feminism. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0813547253. 
  14. ^ McDuffie, Eric (2008). "Esther V. Cooper's "The Negro Woman Domestic Worker in Relation to Trade Unionism": Black Left Feminism and the Popular Front". American Communist History. 7: 203–209 – via Taylor & Francis Online. 
  15. ^ McDuffie, Eric (2009). Sojourning for Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism. Durham: Duke University Press. p. 171. ISBN 0822350505. 
  16. ^ McGuire, Danielle (2010). At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance--A New History of the Civil Rights Movement. New York City: Random House. pp. 3–48. ISBN 0307389243. 
  17. ^ Biondi, Martha (2006). To Stand and Fight: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Postwar New York City. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. pp. 198–199. ISBN 9780674019829. 
  18. ^ a b c Weathers, Mary Ann. "An Argument For Black Women's Liberation As a Revolutionary Force", No More Fun and Games: A Journal of Female Liberation, Cambridge, Mass, by Cell 16 vol. 1, no. 2 (February 1969).
  19. ^ SNCC position paper: Women in the Movement, Anonymous.
  20. ^ Women & Men in the Freedom Movement ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans.
  21. ^ Stokely Carmichael, Black Power, 1967.
  22. ^ Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision (University of North Carolina Press, 2003), pp. 310-11.
  23. ^ Fairclough, Adam (2002). Better Day Coming: Blacks and Equality, 1890–2000. Penguin. 
  24. ^ Weibaum, Alys Eve. "Gendering the General Strike: W.E.B. Du Bois's Black Reconstruction and Black Feminism's "Propaganda of History"". South Atlantic Quarterly. 
  25. ^ Brenner, Mark; Luce, Stephanie (2006). "Women and Class: What Has Happened in Forty Years?". Monthly Review. Retrieved August 13, 2015. 
  26. ^ Angela Davis, Women, Race and Class (1981), ISBN 0-394-71351-6.
  27. ^ Echols, Alice. Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America 1967–1975, University of Minnesota Press, 1990, ISBN 0-8166-1787-2, pp. 291, 383.
  28. ^ "Feminists We Love: Kaila Adia Story - The Feminist Wire". The Feminist Wire. 2013-03-29. Retrieved 2018-04-16. 
  29. ^ a b "Lesbian Feminism, 1960s and 1970s · Lesbians in the Twentieth Century, 1900-1999 ·". Retrieved 2018-04-18. 
  30. ^ a b Combahee River Collective (1978). "A Black Feminist Statement" (PDF). We.RiseUp. 
  31. ^ a b c "Lesbian Feminism - Dictionary definition of Lesbian Feminism | FREE online dictionary". Retrieved 2018-04-19. 
  32. ^ Moraga, Cherríe; Anzaldúa, Gloria. This bridge called my back : writings by radical women of color (Fourth ed.). Albany, NY. ISBN 9781438454399. OCLC 894128432. 
  33. ^ "Malcolm Remembered: 25 Years of Research and Retrospective Reflection", MALCOLM X: Radical Tradition and a Legacy of Struggle, New York City, November 1–4, 1990.
  34. ^ "Brother Malcolm: 1991", Radical Tradition and a Legacy of Struggle — an international conference, December 13, 14, 15, 1991.
  35. ^ Janita Poe, "African-American women are beginning to define their own feminism", The Baltimore Sun, May 27, 1992.
  36. ^ Charisse Jones, "A Candlelight Vigil Is Latest Round in a Clash Over Tyson", The New York Times, June 15, 1995.
  37. ^ Clarence Page, "What Kind Of Hero?" Chicago Tribune, June 25, 1995.
  38. ^ a b Chrisena Coleman, Jose Lambiet, Dick Sheridan, Frank Lombardi, "Iron Mike skips rally and shops", Daily News, June 20, 1995.
  39. ^ "Fourth-wave feminism". Wikipedia. 2017-04-06. 
  40. ^ Morgensen, Scott Lauria. Spaces between Us: Queer Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Decolonization. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2011. Print.
  41. ^ Cohen, Cathy. “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies vol. 3., no. 4 (1997): 437-465.
  42. ^ Valles-Morales, Jesus. “On Queer of Color Criticism, Communication Studies, and Corporeality. Kaleidoscope: A Graduate Journal of Qualitative Communication Research 14 (2015)
  43. ^ Albertine, Susan. “Aberrations in Black: Toward a Queer of Color Critique (Book Review).” American Literature 77.3 (2005).
  44. ^ Ferguson, Roderick A. Aberrations in Black: Toward a Queer of Color Critique. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2004. Print.
  45. ^ Collective, The Combahee River. "A Black Feminist Statement." WSQ: Women's Studies Quarterly 42.3-4 (2014): 271-80. Web.
  46. ^ "Has Social Media Sparked A New Black Feminist Movement?". HelloBeautiful. 2014-03-05. Retrieved 2017-04-13. 
  47. ^ "Black Feminism Goes Viral [EXCERPT] - EBONY". Retrieved 2017-04-13. 
  48. ^ "#BlackGirlMagic in Victoria Secret's Paris Fashion Show". Retrieved 2017-04-13. 
  49. ^ (2015-11-11). "The Jenners' Racist Tendencies Are Apparently Rubbing Off on their BFF". Retrieved 2017-04-13. 
  50. ^ Daniel, Kearie (2016-08-17). "Dear Khloe: Cultural Appropriation Of Black Hairstyles Does Matter. Here's Why". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-04-13. 
  51. ^ Beck, Lia. "'Hidden Figures' Story Of Black Women's Success Is Necessary In More Ways Than One". Bustle. Retrieved 2017-04-20. 
  52. ^ "About That Popular 'Black Films Don't Sell Overseas' Industry Belief… Reality, Or Just Laziness?". 
  53. ^ "The Not So Silver Screen". AAPF. Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  54. ^ a b c "Black Live Matter". 
  55. ^ Jackson, Sarah J. (2016-10-01). "(Re)Imagining Intersectional Democracy from Black Feminism to Hashtag Activism". Women's Studies in Communication. 39 (4): 375–379. doi:10.1080/07491409.2016.1226654. ISSN 0749-1409. 
  56. ^ Lindsey, Treva B. "A Love Letter to Black Feminism". The Black Scholar. 45 (4): 1–6. doi:10.1080/00064246.2015.1080911. 
  57. ^ Duran, Jane; Africana, Philosophia (2015-10-01). "Women of the Civil Rights Movement". Philosophia Africana. 17 (2): 65–73. doi:10.5840/philafricana2015/20161727. 
  58. ^ Hill, Marcus A. (2016-08-07). "Do black women still come first? Examining Essence magazine post Time Warner". Critical Studies in Media Communication. 33 (4): 366–380. doi:10.1080/15295036.2016.1225968. ISSN 1529-5036. 
  59. ^ T., Bridewell, AnaLexicis (2016-01-01). "Black Lives Matter: Why Black Feminism?". First-Gen Voices: Creative and Critical Narratives on the First-Generation College Experience. 5 (1). 
  60. ^ Langford, Catherine (2016). "Blacklivesmatter: Epistemic Positioning, Challenges, And Possibilities". Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric. 5.3/4: 78. 5.3/4: 78. 
  61. ^ Asoka, K (June–July 2015). "Women and Black Lives Matter: An Interview with Marcia Chatelain". 
  62. ^ a b c d e f g h Collins, Patricia Hill (2000). Black Feminist Thought (Second ed.). New York, New York: Routledge. p. 299. ISBN 0-415-92483-9. 
  63. ^ a b c d Lloyd, Moya (2005). Beyond Identity Politics: Feminism, Power, and Politics. London: Sage Publications. pp. 61–69. ISBN 0 8039 7885 5. 
  64. ^ a b c Crenshaw, Kimberle (July 1991). "Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color". Stanford Law Review. 43 (6): 1241–1299. 
  65. ^ a b c d e Tucker, Jeffrey (2004). A Sense of Wonder: Samuel R. Delany, Race, Identity, and Difference. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. p. 8. 
  66. ^ a b Burns, Stewart (2006). "Living for the Revolution: Black Feminist Organizations, 1968–1980", Journal of American History 93: 296–298.
  67. ^ Springer, Kimberly (2005). Living for the Revolution: Black Feminist Organizations, 1968-1980. United States: Duke University Press. pp. 1–2. ISBN 9780822386858 – via Google Scholar. Within five organizations I studied-- the Third World Women's Alliance (1968-1979), the National Black Feminist Organization (1973-1975), the National Alliance of Black Feminists (1976-1980), the Combahee River Collective (1975-1980), and Black Women Organized for Action (1973-1980) -- several thousand black women activists explicitly claimed feminism and defined a collective identity based on their race, gender, class, and sexual orientation claims. 
  68. ^ But Some of Us Are Brave: A History of Black Feminism in the United States; Interview with Robbie McCauley by Alex Schwall. 2004.
  69. ^ Smith, Barbara. Response to Adrienne Rich's "Notes from Magazine: What does Separatism Mean?" from Sinister Wisdom, Issue 20, 1982.
  70. ^ Duchess, Harris. Interview with Barbara Smith
  71. ^ a b c d e Breines, Wini. 2002. "What's Love got to do with it? White Women, Black Women, and Feminism in the Movement Years". Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 27: 1095–1133.
  72. ^ "Combahee River Collective: A Black Feminist Statement – 1974". Retrieved May 31, 2007. 
  73. ^ Cliff, Michelle. Women Warriors: Black Women Writers lead the Canon, Voice Literary Supplement, May 1990.
  74. ^ "Black Woman's Manifesto". Duke Digital Collections. 
  75. ^ Smith, Barbara. Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1983, p. 1.
  76. ^ Hull, Smith, Scott. All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women's Studies, p. xvi.
  77. ^ a b Smith, Barbara. Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, Rutgers University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-8135-2753-8, p. xiv.
  78. ^ Biography of Hattie Gossett; retrieved May 31, 2007.
  79. ^ "Beyoncé Wants to Change the Conversation". ELLE. 2016-04-04. Retrieved 2016-10-27.
  80. ^ Weidhase, Nathalie (2015-01-02). "'Beyoncé feminism' and the contestation of the black feminist body". Celebrity Studies. 6 (1): 128–131. doi:10.1080/19392397.2015.1005389. ISSN 1939-2397
  81. ^ Eddo-Lodge, Reni (2014). "Beyoncé is doing it her way". New Humanist: 129 – via ebsco. 
  82. ^ Vernallis, Carol (2016-01-01). "Beyoncé's Lemonade, Avant-Garde Aesthetics, and Music Video: "The Past and the Future Merge to Meet Us Here"". Film Criticism. 40 (3). doi:10.3998/fc.13761232.0040.315. ISSN 2471-4364. 
  83. ^ Hanson, Sade Strehlke,Pamela. "We Paired Feminist Icon Gloria Steinem with Amandla Stenberg and This Is What Happened". Teen Vogue. Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  84. ^ Kantor, Jessica. "Amandla Stenberg on Meeting Beyoncé and Her Journey To Loving Her Hair". Glamour. Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  85. ^ "TIME Mag's Influential Teen Zendaya On Being A Role Model, A Feminist & Keeping It Real". GirlTalkHQ. 2015-11-11. Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  86. ^ "Solange Says, 'I Am A Proud Black Feminist': Sneak Peek At BUST's April/May 2017 Cover Story". Retrieved 2017-11-07. 
  87. ^ "Women of color have always had a place in punk. Big Joanie is here to remind you of that". The FADER. Retrieved 2018-03-23. 
  88. ^ a b c Fortharriet, Alice (March 15, 2013). "10 Black Feminists/Womanists Everyone Should Know". 
  89. ^ Napikoski, Lina (February 28, 2018). "Womanist". 
  90. ^ Spelman College. "Beverly Guy- Sheftall Bio". 
  91. ^ Elsa Dorlin (ed.), Black Feminism – Anthologie du féminisme africain-américain, 1975–2000. Paris, L'Harmattan, 2007. Introduction on-line (in French)

Further reading[edit]