Black Feminist Thought

Black Feminist thought provides us with powerful testimonials of brutality, oppression, sexism and racism. Black Feminist work also provides scathing critiques, strength, knowledge, and empowerment. In this class we will familiarize ourselves with the vibrant legacy and brilliant future of Black Feminist writing, poetry and film.  While exploring the works of these women, we will pay particular attention to their awareness of a multitude of oppressions, intersecting strategies of resistance, and the necessity of maintaining an affirmative stance toward difference in the face of an alienating homogenization.

Most of the readings are shortish excerpts from larger texts and will be posted two weeks in advance. Click on the dates after the listed reading for a link to the text.

Part One

WEEK ONE – 3/22
Sojourner Truth
– A’n’t I a Woman? (1851)
Frances E.W. Harper – Selected Poems (1854, 1856, 1895)
Anna Julia Cooper – A Voice from the South (1892)
Lucy Parsons – Speech to the IWW (1905)
Ida B. Wells-Barnett – Crusader for Justice (1909)
WEEK TWO – 3/29
Nella Larsen
– Passing (1929 Full Text) (Excerpt) AUDIO
Zora Neale Hurston – God and the Pintards (1937)
Naomi Ward – I Am A Domestic (1940)
Margret Walker – Lineage (1942)
Claudia Jones – An End to the Neglect of the Problems of the Negro Woman! (1949)
Gwendolyn Brooks – The Bean Eaters (1959)
Florynce Kennedy – Institutionalized Oppression vs The Female (1970)
The Combahee River Collective – A Black Feminist Statement (1977)
Audre Lorde – Poetry is Not a Luxury (1977), The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action (1977), Sexism: An American Disease in Blackface (1979), I Am Your Sister (1988)
WEEK FOUR – 4/12
Audre Lorde – Man Child (1979), Open Letter to Mary Daly (1979), An Interview: Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich (1979), Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference (1980), Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power (1978), Selected Poems (1968-82)
WEEK FIVE – 4/19
Angela Davis – I Am a Revolutionary Black Woman (1970)
Alice Walker
– Looking For Zora (1975), Only Justice Can Stop a Curse (1982)
Assata Shakur – Women in Prison: How We Are (1978) Autobiography (1987)

WEEK SIX – 4/26
Patricia Hill Collins – Black Feminist Thought (1982)
Toi Derricotte – Selected Poems (1983)(2o11)
June Jordan – From Sea to Shining Sea (1982)
Cheryl Clarke – The Failure to Transform: Homophobia in the Black Community (1983), Women of Summer (1979), Lesbianism: An Act of Resistance (1981)
Barbra Smith – Racism and Women’s Studies (1982)
bell hooks – Ain’t I a Woman? (1981), We Real Cool (2004)
Toni Cade Bambara – The Bombing of Osage Avenue (1986)
Sapphire – Wild Thing (1994)

We will follow the various currents moving through Black Feminist thought and observe the confluences between these streams and the various branches of what can broadly be called Postcolonial Feminism.

This is a reading intensive course and the primary objective is to read these texts carefully and then discuss them in a constructive and elucidating manner. Given that nearly each week there are multiple readings, participants should feel encouraged to read what they can and then come to the group and discuss. Reading all the material is not a prerequisite for attendance. Also, given the length of the course, feel free to drop in when the material strikes your interest.