Black Feminist Thought

This is not an exhaustive list, but rather some highlights to give a sense of the history

Slavery to Civil War:

Sojourner Truth 1797-1883: born into slavery in New York as Isabella Baumfree. In 1843, she took the name Sojourner Truth. Her most famous speech, Ain't I a Woman?, was presented in 1851 at a women's rights convention in Ohio. During the Civil War Sojourner Truth raised food and clothing contributions for black regiments, and met Abraham Lincoln at the White House in 1864. While there, she tried to challenge the discrimination that segregated street cars by race. After the War ended, Sojourner Truth again spoke widely, advocating for a "Negro State" in the west.

Harriet Tubman: 1820-1913 -- Born a slave in Maryland,  led more than 300 other slaves to the North and to Canada to their freedom, too. During the Civil War, Harriet Tubman served with the U.S. Army in South Carolina, as a nurse, scout, spy and soldier. Most famously she led the Combahee River expedition, under the command of James Montgomery, helping to blow up Southern supply lines and free hundreds of slaves.

 Frances  Harper: 1892 novel, Iola Leroy: "Miss Leroy, out of the race must come its own thinkers and writers. Authors belonging to the white race have written good books, for which I am deeply grateful, but it seems to be almost impossible for a white man to put himself completely in our place. No man can feel the iron which enters another man's soul."

1920s -- Harlem Renaissance

Zora Neal Hurston -- anthropologist (under Franz Boas) and novelist. 1937: Their Eyes Were Watching God, a novel which was controversial because it didn't fit easily into stereotypes of black stories.

1960s-- Civil Rights Era

Angela Davis -- b. 1944 -- Radical black activist, She ran for U.S. Vice President on the Communist Party ticket in 1980 and has written on women and politics. She is often associated with the Black Panthers and with the black power politics of the late 1960s and early 1970s. 1989 Became professor in the History of Consciousness program at UCSC.

1980s -- "Black Feminist Thought" finally achieves recognition as scholarly theoretical framework. (cf. Patricia Hill Collins "Defining Black Feminist Thought")

Combahee River Collective (1982):  "A Black Feminist Statement," -- "as Black women we find any type of biological determinism a particularly dangerous and reactionary basis upon which to build a politic" (p.17). But implies that only African-American women can be Black feminists. Primarily critique formed around capitalism.

Alice Walker (1983): coins term womanist, a term she describes as "womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender." "Committed to the survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female." Redefining all people as "people of color." Walker universalizes what are typically seen as individual struggles while simultaneously allowing space for autonomous movements of self-determination.

Evelynn Hammonds (1983):  The problem of internal dissent -- "What I need to do is challenge my thinking, to grow. On white publications sometimes I feet like I'm holding up the banner of black womanhood. And that doesn't allow me to be as critical as I would like to be." Went on to be a founder of critical race theory in STS.

Bell Hooks (1989): earlier book titled Ain't I a woman based on Sojourner Truth's speech. "Oppressed people resist by identifying themselves as subjects, by defining their reality, shaping their new identity, naming their history, telling their story," notes Bell Hooks (1989, 43).

1990s-2004 -- Postmodernist Black Feminism

Alondra Nelson -- "Afrofuturism"

Sheree Thomas -- "Dark Matter"