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Introduction to Black Feminism

This research guide celebrates the accomplishments of Black feminists and their scholarship and work.

What is Black Feminism?

Black Feminism is an intellectual, artistic, and philosophical tradition and activist tradition and practice grounded in African American women's lived experiences. Along with gender inequality, Black Feminism engages with the aspects of racial, class, ability/disability inequalities, individual opportunities and the life trajectory  with an intersectional lens. The Black feminists expended energy to legitimize themselves in the eyes of Black communities.

The Combahee River Collective Statement developed by Black feminists articulated their position against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppressions.

In her seminal book Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment Patricia Hill Collins highlights the intersection of race, gender and class and characterizes "lived experiences" of Black women as a "criterion for meaning." Experiences of Black women were diverse and vastly different from the lived experiences of white women.

In Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women, Rutgers feminist scholar Brittney Cooper provides a systematic examination of Black women's lives and intellectual contributions from the late 19th to the late 20th century. Cooper shows how Black women organized clubs, schools, and social movements in the face of growing white intimidation and violence following the abandonment of Reconstruction in 1876. Crafting a standpoint grounded in race, class, and gender, African American women cultivated and circulated "embodied knowledge" that inspired and guided their local activism and became the bases of what became known as Black feminism.

Rutgers political scientist Nikol Alexander-Floyd introduces the concept of Critical Race Black Feminism in her book Re-imagining Black Women: A Critique of Post-feminist and Post-racial Melodrama in Culture and Politics. Critical Race Black Feminism "affirms the centrality of Black women's experiences as the subject of research and commitment to forging Black feminist epistemologies."

Portrait of Mnonja by Michalene Thomas, 2010

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Smithsonian Institution. "Smithsonian Learning Lab Resource: Portrait of Mnonja." Smithsonian Learning Lab. October 26, 2015. Accessed February 15, 2023.



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