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Black Women Artists: Black Feminism

A Short Introduction to Black Feminism

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. ] 

Websites of Note

Black Feminists of Note

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. 

Sojourner Truth

Anna Julia Cooper

Fannie Lou Hamer 

Mary Church Terrell 

Ida B. Wells

Combahee River Collective -- Demita Frazier, Beverly Smith, and Barbara Smith

Angela Davis 

Marsha P. Johnson

Shirley Chisholm

Bell hooks

Toni Morrison 

Audre Lorde 

Alice Walker 

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw

Barbara Smith

Melissa Harris Perry 

Patricia Hill-Collins

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A Black Women's History of the United States

Berry, Daina Ramey., and Kali Nicole. Gross. A Black Women’s History of the United States. Beacon Press, 2020.

How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective

Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta. How We Get Free : Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective.  Chicago, Illinois: Haymarket Books, 2017.

Beyoncé in Formation: Remixing Black Feminism

Tinsley, Omise’eke Natasha. Beyoncé in Formation : Remixing Black Feminism. Austin: University of Texas, 2018.

Shadow Bodies: Black Women, Ideology, Representation, and Politics

Julia S. Jordan-Zachery. Shadow Bodies : Black Women, Ideology, Representation, and Politics. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2017.

Iconic : Decoding Images of the Revolutionary Black Woman

Johnson, Lakesia D. Iconic : Decoding Images of the Revolutionary Black Woman. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2012.

Black Sexual Politics

Hill Collins, Patricia. Black Sexual Politics : African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Where We Stand : Class Matters

hooks, bell. Where We Stand : Class Matters. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Lectures from the Open Web

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


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