Lots of smart and critical people have been chiming in at the #blackpowerisformen hashtag – initiated by EBONY editor Jamilah Lemieux on Twitter – to challenge the ways in which gender is often divorced from discussions of race and racism in the United States. Cultural critic Mark Anthony Neal took the discussions a step further by putting together a list of seminal books on the topic. Here are some of his picks (see the full list here) – what would you add?
Black Feminist Thought, Patricia Hill Collins, Routledge: In spite of the double burden of racial and gender discrimination, African-American women have developed a rich intellectual tradition that is not widely known. In Black Feminist Thought, originally published in 1990, Patricia Hill Collins set out to explore the words and ideas of Black feminist intellectuals and writers, both within the academy and without. Here Collins provides an interpretive framework for the work of such prominent Black feminist thinkers as Angela Davis, bell hooks, Alice Walker, and Audre Lorde. Drawing from fiction, poetry, music and oral history, the result is a superbly crafted and revolutionary book that provided the first synthetic overview of Black feminist thought and its canon.
Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement, Barbara Ransby, UNC Press: One of the most important African American leaders of the twentieth century and perhaps the most influential woman in the civil rights movement, Ella Baker (1903-1986) was an activist whose remarkable career spanned fifty years and touched thousands of lives. In this deeply researched biography, Barbara Ransby chronicles Baker’s long and rich political career as an organizer, an intellectual, and a teacher, from her early experiences in depression-era Harlem to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Ransby shows Baker to be a complex figure whose radical, democratic worldview, commitment to empowering the black poor, and emphasis on group-centered, grassroots leadership set her apart from most of her political contemporaries. Beyond documenting an extraordinary life, the book paints a vivid picture of the African American fight for justice and its intersections with other progressive struggles worldwide across the twentieth century.
All the Women Are White, All the Men Are Black, But Some of Us Are Brave; Ed Gloria T. Hull, Patricia Bell Scott, Barbara Smith; The Feminist Press: Winner of the Outstanding Women of Colour Award, and the Women Educator’s Curriculum Material Award, this ground-breaking collection provides a wealth of materials needed to develop course units on black women, from political theory to literary essays on major writers to work on black women’s contributions to the blues. Bibliographies and a collection of syllabi provide readers with essential classroom materials and a map for further research. For course use in: African American studies, feminist thought, lesbian studies, racism and sexism, women’s studies.
When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, Joan Moran, Simon & Schuster: In this fresh, funky, and ferociously honest book, award-winning journalist Joan Morgan bravely probes the complex issues facing African-American women in today’s world: a world where feminists often have not-so-clandestine affairs with the most sexist of men; where women who treasure their independence often prefer men who pick up the tab; and where the deluge of babymothers and babyfathers reminds black women who long for marriage that traditional nuclear families are a reality for less than 40 percent of the African-American population.
Blues Legacies and Black Feminist, Angela Davis, Pantheon Books: The author of “Women, Race and Class” suggests that “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday represent a black working-class, feminist ideology and historical consciousness. Davis’ illuminating analysis of the songs performed by these artists provides readers with a compelling and transformative understanding of their musical and social contributions and of their relation to both the African-American community and American culture