As a student of the arts, it is necessary to develop a critical understanding of the societal structures that frame our existence including theories about race, class, and gender. Considering the contemporary art world is rife with artists using these concepts to make artwork, you would be remiss to not explore them. This guide aims to outline resources that will help you develop a basic understanding of how race, class, and gender intersect and how that has spawned Black feminist theory.
A basic concept to understand when discussing Black feminism is the word 'Intersectionality.' The term was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1993 as a concept that posits you cannot divorce race and class from any discussions around gender equality. Historically, the first wave feminist movement dealt exclusively with issues of gender, and did not address issues affecting women of color and working class women. The initial push for womens' voting rights is a great historical example of how Black women in particular were sidelined from early feminist movements. But even as the movement grew to begin acknowledging and taking on the issues of Black women and women from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, an exclusive type of feminism-- now defined as 'white feminism' -- remains. Therefore, the need for intersectional feminism and Black feminism persists.
This page of Black women in the arts will help introduce you to a history of information related to a history of Black feminism that is needed to understand the history of Black women in the arts. Here, you will find articles, fiction/prose/non-fiction books that will introduce you to the ideas behind Black feminist theory. Feel free to e-mail me with any other suggestions to add to this guide. [Please read the embedded links for more background. ]
The following women created important work that has shaped Black feminist thought. Each name links to an article or biography from different publishers and sources. Please check out the different sites as they all have reputable information.
Combahee River Collective -- Demita Frazier, Beverly Smith, and Barbara Smith
Black Female Voices: Who is Listening - A public dialogue between bell hooks + Melissa Harris-Perry recorded at the New School November 8, 2013
The Urgency of Intersectionality by Kimberlé Crenshaw from TEDWomen 2016
A People's Journey African American Women and the Struggle for Equality published by the National Museum of African American History & Culture August 29, 2017