The Genesis of Contemporary Black Feminism – Women’s History Month


The Genesis of Contemporary Black Feminism According to the Combahee River Collective:

The Combahee River Collective was active from 1874-1980. Founded by Barbara Smith, this group of Afrocentric women countered racist, heterosexual, and political oppression. Their statement, part of which is featured below, deconstructs the historical realities of Black women in America. How much has changed? How much is the same? What work continues?

STATEMENT: Before looking at the recent development of Black feminism we would like to affirm that we find our origins in the historical reality of Afro-American women’s continuous life-and-death struggle for survival and liberation. Black women’s extremely negative relationship to the American political system (a system of white male rule) has always been determined by our membership in two oppressed racial and sexual castes. As Angela Davis points out in “Reflections on the Black Woman’s Role in the Community of Slaves,” Black women have always embodied, if only in their physical manifestation, an adversary stance to white male rule and have actively resisted its inroads upon them and their communities in both dramatic and subtle ways. There have always been Black women activists—some known, like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frances E. W. Harper, Ida B. Wells Barnett, and Mary Church Terrell, and thousands upon thousands unknown—who have had a shared awareness of how their sexual identity combined with their racial identity to make their whole life situation and the focus of their political struggles unique. Contemporary Black feminism is the outgrowth of countless generations of personal sacrifice, militancy, and work by our mothers and sisters. Read the full statement here [LINK]. Or, go to their website [LINK].

Source: BlackPast, B. (2012, November 16). (1977) The Combahee River Collective Statement. BlackPast.org. https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/combahee-river-collective-statement-1977/

Homepage Photo credit: “A clear definition of ‘radical’, by Combahee River Collective co-founder Barbara Smith, quoted by LA Kauffman in her book Direct Action (Verso, 2017).” by Juha van ‘t Zelfde is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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