Celebrating Black History Month: Black Feminists

As per tradition, here is my Black History Month post on the very last day of the month!

For this Black History Month, I wanted to commemorate bell hooks as she passed back on the 15th of December last year. In this article I will examine black feminists and/or black women whose ideas and works greatly contributed to black feminist theory.

It was hard to narrow down this list because I had to differentiate between black feminist scholars and black women and individuals who black feminists elevate as being important to black history and feminism. For example, Ida B. Wells. She was instrumental in the black Suffragist movement, but she is more known for her documentation of lynchings. In many ways, she is seen more as an activist or historian. She is important to black history, especially black women’s history, yes, but is she as important to black feminist thinking and history as say a Mary Church Terrell? I’m not entirely sure.

The same can be said of Angela Davis. She has works discussing race and gender, but she is more known for her part in the Civil Rights movement and scholarship on prisons which has been very influential on the prison abolitionist movement. To put her on the same level as a bell hooks, for example, may not be accurate here, at least to me. It is this slight difference in contributions and reputation that led me to the list that I made. But, of course, do your own research. This article will try to stick as closely to the “main” shakers of black feminism as possible.

With that out the way, we will be looking at these people’s lunar nodes and Life Paths. Why? I want to see if they accomplished the things that their soul set out to do during their lifetimes or if they were able to at least live a life their soul desired. Let us see.

Mary Church Terrell (September 23, 1863 – July 24, 1954)

Not only are colored women with ambition and aspiration handicapped on account of their sex, but they are almost everywhere baffled and mocked because of their race. Not only because they are women, but because they are colored women, are discouragement and disappointment meeting them at every turn.

From “The Progress of Colored Women,” Kolmar and Bartkowski, 2013, pp. 120, 2013.

Born to freed slave parents on September 23, 1863, Mary Eliza Church Terrell led a very affluent life. Her father, Robert Reed Church, was a successful businessman who became one of the South’s first black millionaires. His wealth came from him getting into real estate where he amassed an empire due to people leaving Memphis and/or dying during the 1878 yellow fever epidemic. With all of the property he had, Church developed numerous areas and facilities for the black residents of the city, creating everything from parks, playground, auditoriums, among other things. He also helped to sponsor graduation ceremonies, political rallies, and shows in the parks. In 1906, he co-found Solvent Savings Bank, the first black-owned bank in Memphis, Tennessee. It lent credit to black people so they could buy homes and develop businesses. Church served as the bank’s first president.

Terrell’s mother, Louisa Ayres Church, was also business savvy. It is believed that she was one of the first black women to establish and maintain a hair salon, which was frequented by well-to-do residents of Memphis of all racial backgrounds.

Because of her parents’ elevated status within the black Memphis elite, Terrell’s education was prioritized. She went to the esteemed Antioch College laboratory school in Ohio from 1871 to 1874 and then Oberlin public school from 8th grade to the end of her high school education in 1879.

Continuing her relationship with Oberlin, Terrell went on to attend Oberlin College, majoring in the classics. But instead of taking the expected 2-year ladies’ course, she opted for the 4-year gentleman’s course. She excelled in her studies and was well recognized for her writing, being nominated as class poet in her freshman class and elected to two of the college’s literary societies. She also served as an editor of The Oberlin Review. In 1884 she received her B.A., graduating alongside some other notable black women—Anna Julia Cooper and Ida Gibbs Hunt. The three would become “lifelong colleagues and highly regarded activists in the movement towards racial and gender equality in the United States” (Mary Church Terrell, n.d.). (Some of you may recognize Cooper’s name as I covered her in my previous Black History Month post.) In 1888, Terrell got her M.A. in Education from Oberlin as well, making her, alongside Cooper, to be the first black women to obtain a master’s degree.

Terrell began her career in education in 1885, teaching modern languages at Wilberforce University. After 2 years of teaching in Ohio, Mary moved to Washington, D.C. to accept a position in the Latin Department at the M Street School. In 1888, the same year she obtained her M.A., Terrell decided to take a brief break from teaching to travel and study abroad in Europe for 2 years. During this time she became fluent in French, German, and Italian. In 1891, Oberlin College offered her a registrarship position, which would make her the first black women to obtain such position. Interestingly, however, she declined. Instead, Terrell got married and in 1895 she was appointed superintendent of the M Street High School, becoming the first woman to hold this post. But let’s back up.

In 1892, her friend, Thomas Moss, was lynched in Memphis because his business apparently competed with the white business owners of the city. Traumatized but passionate on speaking out, Terrell joined Ida B. Wells-Barnett in anti-lynching campaigns. During this same year, she along with Wells-Barnett, Helen Appo Cook, Anna Julie Cooper, Charlotte Forten Grimké, Mary Jane Patterson and Evelyn Shaw formed the Colored Women’s League in Washington, D.C. “The goals of the service-oriented club were to promote unity, social progress and the best interests of the African American community. Cook was elected president” (Mary Church Terrell, n.d.). The Colored Women’s League focused on “elevating the lives of educated Black women outside of a church setting. It also started a training program and kindergarten, before these were included in the Washington, DC public schools.” The League’s educational efforts along with Terrell’s accomplishment as a principal eventually led to her appointment to the District of Columbia Board of Education which she held from 1895 to 1906. She was the first black woman to hold such a position. Despite this, Terrell continued to advocate for black women.

A year prior to her friend’s lynching, Terrell attended the first National Council of Women convention in Washington, D.C. in February of 1891. She was a bit hesitant at the time to fully lend her support to the suffragist movement, however, stating, “[T]he presiding officer requested all those to rise who believed that women should have the franchise. Although the theater was well filled at the time, comparatively few rose…. I forced myself to stand up” (Parker, n.d.). She explained further in her autobiography that, “In the early 1890s it required a great deal of courage for a woman publicly to acknowledge…she believed in suffrage for her sex when she knew the majority did not.”

Even so, Terrell noticed the racial divide and cross purposes within the movement.

While attending a convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in the early 1890s, Terrell later recalled:

“When the members of the Association were registering their protest against a certain injustice, I arose and said, ‘As a colored woman, I hope this Association will include in the resolution the injustices of various kinds of which colored people are the victims.’”

Alison M. Walker (n.d.) writes: “From the platform, Susan B. Anthony asked if she [Terrell] was a NAWSA member. Terrell replied, ‘No, I am not…but I thought you might be willing to listen to a plea for justice by an outsider.’ Happily, she reported, ‘Miss Anthony invited me to come forward, write out the resolution which I wished incorporated with the others, and hand it to the Committee on Resolutions. And thus began a delightful, helpful friendship.’”

As we all know, the white suffragists such as Anthony were not as progressive as many love to paint them as. In fact, many were racist, or if some find it too hard to label them as such, these white women made it clear through their words, writings, and actions that race was not important to them, often making it hard for black women during that time to feel heard and accepted in their organizations and larger suffragist movement.

Parker (n.d.) writes once more: “Although she appreciated the personal warmth, Terrell regretted that as time went on, Anthony narrowed NAWSA’s focus from a broader women’s rights platform toward the sole goal of gaining woman suffrage at the national level, even if it meant accepting restrictions on voting, from poll taxes to literacy tests, that could be used to keep African-American women from the polls, thereby encouraging southern white women to join the suffrage movement.”

This prioritizing of white women over women of color, specifically black women here, is not new, clearly. That is likely why Terrell also made an effort to connect with other black suffragists. A black suffragist organization located in Boston called the Federation of Afro-American Women was one such connection. The Colored Women’s League and Federation of Afro-American Women along with hundreds of other organizations combined efforts and eventually formed the National Association of Colored Women in 1896. Terrell’s words—“Lifting as we climb”—became the motto of organization. Additionally, she was the twice elected president from 1896 to 1901, declining a third term. The NACW forged a distinctly black Suffragist movement. Terrell herself “argued that voting rights for black women were inseparable from questions of black men’s disfranchisement and the broader freedom struggle” (Parker, n.d.).

This insistence of advocating for black civil rights widened the antagonistic gap between black and white Suffragists. On March 3, 1913, black and white suffragists marched to the capital to campaign for women’s voting rights. This was an important event in women’s history, especially as the march was planned for the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. However, behind the scenes, white women were not happy to see black women there.

“Alice Paul, the young, white, college-educated Quaker, who organized the march for [the National American Woman Suffrage Association] NAWSA, hoped to carry the favor and participation of white southern women. Paul first planned on excluding black suffragists and then hoped to segregate them at the very end of the parade. Several African-American suffragists, including Terrell, defiantly marched throughout the parade,” Parker writes (n.d.). At this point in her life, Terrell was a staunch black Suffragist, refusing to let white women in their feelings stop her activism. Even so, Terrell continued to reach out to Paul and push her to advocate for black people’s voting rights. But unsurprisingly, this racist white woman continued to ignore Terrell and other black Suffragists, even after the 19th Amendment passed and Tennessee being the last state to ratify it.

In 1921, Paul asserted that the NACW was not for women’s rights but racial rights, “and so banned it from formal participation [in her new campaign for women’s rights], although a few African-American NWP members were later told they could attend the convention as individuals” (Parker, n.d.). Apparently, in a confrontation at the NWP headquarters, Terrell and other black suffragists tried once more to reach out to Paul and other white suffragists only to be dismissed. Terrell was one of the very few black women that were allowed to speak at the conference being held there.

Terrell tried her best to show how the rights white women were recently granted did not protect black women nor black men. She brought up lynchings and laws such as Jim Crow and the Convict Least System. She brought up how both black men and women suffered from such practices. She even gave the example of a pregnant black woman being lynched because she was protesting her husband’s lynching. But the white women there didn’t care. In fact, they interjected during Terrell’s retelling of the incident to say that the woman had to have done something to be murdered. Likewise, according to her autobiography, this exchange happened between her and Paul:

Paul: “What do you women want me to do?” [This is relation to Terrell’s speech she gave.]

Terrell: “I want you to tell us whether you endorse the enforcement of the 19th Amendment for all women.” 

Paul refused to answer.

Weary but not defeated by such incidents as these, Terrell continued to fight as a black suffragist alongside her daughter. In 1940, she published her autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World, which chronicled her life dealing with discrimination as a black woman. Eight years later in 1948, Terrell became the first black member of the American Association of University Women, after winning an anti-discrimination lawsuit. As the Civil Rights Movement was brewing, Terrell in 1950 at 86 years old challenged segregation in public places by protesting at the John R. Thompson Restaurant in Washington, DC. Surprisingly, she was victorious. The Supreme Court in 1953 ruled that segregated eating facilities were unconstitutional, a major breakthrough during the Civil Rights Movement. Sadly, Terrell did not live to see the full extent of the movement, dying 4 years later after this in Highland Beach, Maryland.

Contribution to black feminism: Being a prominent black suffragist

To be honest, I added Terrell to this list because she was one of the few black women I read on in my introductory feminist class during my freshman year in college. The concept of a black suffragist was foreign to me back then because it was taught in my schooling, perhaps implicitly, that suffrage was a white woman thing. Of course, that is silly to believe when you really think about it. However, because black history is never taught explicitly or thoroughly, it not surprising that I thought that way. In either case, I didn’t mean to have such a long biography, but Terrell’s life showcases how the larger feminist movement hasn’t changed when it comes to addressing race and racism.

It has always been black women and other women of color trying to reach out to white women to see our humanity and advocate for our racial rights. Black women, past and present, cannot ignore how their lives are materially different from white women as they participated in women’s rights movements. They had to also make the case and fight for racial rights too. And that has been too much for white women, past and present. For them, only their gender hinders them while their race elevates them. Consequently, it doesn’t make sense to help people of color—black people specifically in this case—because they have power by being white. Thus, if they got power via their gender as well, they would be set. It’s sad how this mentality is so deeply embedded into feminist movements after all these years. White feminism is white supremacist feminism, period. Anyway, let us re-focus on Terrell.

Terrell was a 5 Life Path with her lunar nodes just entering Scorpio on the day she was born. These are very different yet complementary energies. The 5 suggests that her soul wanted to live out a life that was expansive and free. Her Scorpio North Node, also desired liberation but from within. When we look at her life, we can see these two energies in action. Although she was a black woman who lived an economically and professionally advantaged life, (she also benefited from colorism and her parents being mixed), she was still oppressed for being a black woman. Even if she herself was personally shielded from some of the more egregious forms of white terrorism, she still saw her kin experiencing them. As was mentioned in her biography, one of her friends was lynched because he was a black businessowner and the white people in the city did not like that. Terrell was also friends with Ida B. Wells who made it her work to document such lynchings and spread awareness.

Like many sources on her note, it was that loss of a friend—Scorpio rules things like death as Mars is its ruler—that pushed Terrell to become more invested in the black activist movements of her time. (Although she was cautiously easing her way into suffrage, at least, a year prior to this incident.) With her South Node in Taurus (potentially), she likely lived lives where she lived comfortably without the threat of life or death hanging over her every second. In 1800s and 1900s America, she was not afforded that luxury anymore, even though her upbringing was very nice, especially in comparison to the average black person during those times.

She needed something catastrophic to push her to be passionate about something. Her life was not a time to be passive or selfish, as her Sun and Moon being in Libra and Aquarius, respectively, clearly denote as well. I think because of her Sun and Moon, in fact, that she wanted to help her community obtain true freedom and equal rights. The air signs are communal and often theorists. They are the ones that tend to march and protest or otherwise advocate for and spread awareness of social, political, and/or legal issues in order to help the collective—especially Libra and Aquarius even more so.

The 5 in many ways can represent these things as well but I often see the number spoken of in a sort of childlike, naïve way. Especially as the Life Path, you get descriptions of individuals being an adventurer or rebel. This is why you also see concerns about them being scattered in energy or addicted to things like food and sex. But the 5 is also an energy of change. It is a number that moves quite literally and shakes things up. And Terrell was that force, especially as she pushed hard for the white suffragists to advocate for racial rights alongside women’s rights. She put her life in danger a few times too when she was in old age, a classic 5 trait, for her advocacy.

So, I think, overall, Mary Church Terrell did what her soul set out to do. Her soul wanted to fight for something (Scorpio North Node) and change the status quo (5 Life Path), even if that meant she incurred enemies and few allies, at least along racial lines. She used her voice to teach and uplift, advocate and challenge.

As the brains of colored women expanded, their hearts began to grow. No sooner had the heads of a favored few been filled with knowledge than their hearts yearned to dispense blessings to the less fortunate of their race. With tireless energy and eager zeal colored women have worked in every conceivable way to elevate their race. […] In Louisiana and Tennessee colored women have several times petitioned the legislatures of their respective states to repel the obnoxious Jim Crow Car Laws. Against the Convict Lease System, whose atrocities have been so frequently exposed of late, colored women here and there in the South are waging a ceaseless war. […] [C]olored women who are working for the emancipation and elevation of their race know where their duty lies. By constant agitation of this painful and hideous subject, they hope to touch the conscience of the country, so that this stain upon its escutcheon shall be forever wiped away.

From “The Progress of Colored Women,” Kolmar and Bartkowski, 2013, pp. 121, 122

Sources

Because of Her Story: Activist and Suffragist Mary Church Terrell. (2020, Mar., 23). Retrieved from https://nmaahc.si.edu/explore/stories/because-her-story-activist-and-suffragist-mary-church-terrell

Mary Church Terrell. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Church_Terrell

Michals, Debra. (2017). Mary Church Terrell. Retrieved from https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/mary-church-terrell

Parker, Alison M. (n.d.). Mary Church Terrell: Black Suffragist and Civil Rights Activist. Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/mary-church-terrell-black-suffragist-and-civil-rights-activist.htm

Robert Reed Church. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Reed_Church

Pauli Murray (November 20, 1910-July 1, 1985)

Black women, historically, have been doubly victimized by the twin immoralities of Jim Crow and Jane Crow. Jane Crow refers to the entire range of assumptions, attitudes, stereotypes, customs, and arrangements which have robbed women of a positive self-concept and prevented them from participating fully in society as equals with men.

From “The Liberation of Black Women,” Kolmar and Bartkowski, 2013, pp. 200

As you will see in their biography, I will be using masculine pronouns (i.e., he/him) for Pauli Murray because in his life, he expressed some feelings and thoughts that can be interpreted as him wrestling with tranness. In fact, he even pursued hormonal treatment at one point in his life. Additionally, transgender scholar-activist Naomi Simmons-Thorne has argued in favor of he/him pronouns for Murray. Most other scholars, however, even if they agree that he was a transgender man by modern times, choose to still refer to Murray with feminine pronouns (i.e., she/her) and call him a woman.

I try to be aware of issues surrounding gender like this and be sensitive toward them. And I think in Murray’s case, it is odd to constantly refer to them as a woman and use feminine pronouns when all throughout his life, he tried to present himself as a masculine individual and has even said on record (i.e., diary entries, speeches, etc.) numerous times that he struggled with being a woman and everything that entails with that, so much to the point that he chose to masculinize his birth name, dress “androgynously” (I use quotes here because just by looking at him, it’s not very androgynous, at least to me, as it is masculine but that’s what the “experts” say so), sought out hormonal treatment and “even requested abdominal surgery to test if [he] had ‘submerged’ male sex organs” (Murray, n.d.). To supposedly “acknowledge” all of that—the very clear gender dysphoria that engulfed every facet of his life—but then still turn around and say they are a woman is very disrespectful in my eyes. (As is going for a rather clunky, at least in my eyes, s/he(*), her/his(*) approach.) So, I opt to call Murray a man here and gender them in accordance with that. I really implore you all to read Simmons-Thorne piece I linked above. It’s very good and challenges not only historiographers to examine their cissexism and gender essentialism but casual onlookers as well.

Consolidating these historiographical positions, one thing becomes apparent. The pronominal problem in Murray scholarship is neither historical nor biographical, in the sense that they do not emerge from the facts of Murray’s life. Rather, the debate over Murray’s identity and reflective pronoun choices are problems of historiography, pragmatism, and of course, politics. It is historiographical in the sense that if scholars were willing to contend with a trans masculine Pauli Murray, such an enterprise would entail implications for both women’s history and feminist historical research methods. Conventional interpretations of Murray’s life and motivations would require rethinking, hard truths would need to be confronted, and some intellectual hallmarks of gender essentialist feminisms upended. It is easier, for example, to attribute Murray’s tireless campaign against sexism to his essentialized womanhood than to consider the possibility that Murray’s indignation might have stemmed from his sense that as a man, he should not have been subjected. Scholars would need to rethink whether it remains appropriate to herald Murray as the first African American woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest or earn a doctorate from Yale Law School, and so on.

From “Pauli Murray and the Pronominal Problem: a De-essentialist Trans Historiography,” Simmons-Thorne, 2019

Born on November 20, 1910, Murray had a tragic upbringing. Born to mixed race (i.e., black slaves, white slave owners, Native American, Irish, and free black people) free parents, he was the fourth of six children and the darkest, not being able to pass. His mother Agnes Fitzgerald died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1914. His father, William Murray, was an accomplished man, having graduated from Howard University. He was a teacher and then later a principal in the Baltimore public school system. However, having lost his wife and battling with typhoid fever, he struggled to raise his six children. He eventually sent Murray to North Carolina to be raised by his maternal aunt, who they were named after, and grandparents. Three years later after this move, Murray’s father was poor and was committed to the Crownsville State Hospital for the Negro Insane. In 1922 his life ended in tragedy as William was beaten and killed by a white guard in the basement of the hospital.

In spite of this dark childhood, Murray excelled in school. He taught himself to read by the age of 5. This fascination and talent for reading and writing only grew as Murray went on to be the “editor-in-chief of [his] school newspaper, the president of the literary society, class secretary, a member of the debate club, a top student, and the forward on the basketball team” (Rothberg, 2021). At age 15, he graduated from high school and qualified to attend many top universities. But he didn’t want to apply to the North Carolina College for Negros due to Jim Crow laws. This refusal to be confined by segregation led him to New York where he lived with his white passing cousin Maude in a white neighborhood. He attended Hunter College (because his first choice of Columbia University did not admit women at the time) and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1933.

Harlem during this time was going through a cultural revolution in art and writing that is now known as the Harlem Renaissance to modern audiences. Last year I examined a few prominent people from that era, and Murray made many friends with some of the big shakers of the time such as Langston Hughes, and crossed paths with numerous others like W.E.B. DuBois.

Having contacts with these people helped Murray to sometimes stay afloat amidst the Great Depression that followed the stock market crashing in 1929. Even so, he was often in and out of poverty. He worked numerous odd jobs and began publishing his poetry across the various black magazines at the time such as The Crisis which was ran by the NAACP.

It was during this turbulent time of the 1930s that Murray was wrestling with his gender. He forwent his feminine birth name of “Anne Pauline” to the ambiguous “Pauli” and started to dress masculinely. “A photo album from this era, The Life and Times of an American Called Pauli Murray, included early ‘selfies’ captioned ‘The Dude,’ ‘The Vagabond,’ ‘The Acrobat,’ ‘The Crusader,’ and ‘The Imp,’ among others” (Pauli Murray Center, n.d.). Murray’s gender dysphoria led him to seek out gender-affirming medical treatments such hormone treatment which he was unfortunately denied. 

In 1938, Murray moved back to North Carolina. Murray applied to the graduate program in sociology at UNC-Chapel Hill but was denied entry because he was black due to segregation laws. This denial of entry sort of sparked a fire in Murray that led him to push harder and harder back against Jim Crow. Starting with this rejection, Murray tried to publicly fight against the school’s decision by writing to “officials ranging from the university president to President Roosevelt, releasing their responses to the media in an attempt to embarrass them into action” (Pauli Murray, n.d.). The NAACP, which was known to taking up such legal disputes as these, was supposedly initially interested in the case, but ultimately refused to represent Murray in court. There are some interesting reasons as to why. They may have worried that his legal residency in New York state would weakened his case I’m assuming because Northern and Southern laws, even when it came to segregation, was rather different, and the NAACP was based in New York City. Another perhaps more pressing issue was Murray’s gender presentation and sexuality. At this time Murray was living life as a masculine individual and had open relationships with (white) women who considered themselves to be straight. Respectability politics likely prevented the higher ups in the organization from wanting to even touch Murray’s case even though the NAACP spent much of their formative years battling against such incidents of racial discrimination that Murray was experiencing.

Whatever the organization’s true reasons, Murray found himself in another situation that made the two cross paths once again. In 1940, Murray was walking the streets of Rhode Island, distraught after “the disappearance of a woman friend”(Pauli Murray, n.d.). “[He] was taken into custody by police … [and eventually] transferred to Bellevue Hospital in New York City for psychiatric treatment. In March, Murray left the hospital with Adelene McBean, [his] roommate and girlfriend, and took a bus to Durham to visit [his] aunts [in North Carolina].” It is on this bus trip that the two moved from the black section to the white section, refusing to move back even after the police were called. They were arrested.

The NAACP caught wind of this incident and initially represented the two until they were only charged with disorderly conduct rather than violating segregation laws. I guess those charges weren’t severe enough to make the organization care, so they dropped the pair. Luckily, however, “The Workers’ Defense League (WDL), a socialist labor rights organization that also was beginning to take civil rights cases, paid [their] fine. A few months later the WDL hired Murray for its administrative committee” (Pauli Murray, n.d.).

It was here with the WDL that Murray started to shape the foundation for his eventual legal career. While in the organization, he began fundraising for the Workers Defense League, working on behalf of an imprisoned sharecropper named Odell Waller who was a Virginian black sharecropper who was sentenced to death for killing his white landlord, Oscar Davis, during an argument.

In the WDL’s campaign to defend Waller, Murray worked endlessly, even writing to then President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Although the President paid him dust, the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt took interest and responded, even going so far as to write to “the Virginia Governor James Hubert Price, asking him to guarantee that the trial was fair; she later persuaded the president to privately request Price to commute the death sentence” (Pauli Murray, n.d.). Sadly, this wasn’t enough to save Waller. He was executed on July 2, 1942.

This set back didn’t deter Murray, however. He struck up a friendship with the First Lady that lasted until the latter’s death two decades later. And while on the campaign to free Waller, Murray gave a speech in Richmond that was heard by both Thurgood Marshall, the executive director of NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and Howard Law Professor Leon Ransom. Ransom in particular approached Murray after the speech and encouraged him to apply to Howard Law School, allegedly promising a scholarship if he got in. Thus, in 1941, Murray enrolled at the law school at Howard University “with the single-minded intention of destroying Jim Crow” (Rothberg, 2021).

Despite the sexism he faced while at Howard, Murray flourished. He wrote a paper proposing that they should challenge the “separate” part of the Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896) Supreme Court decision as a violation of the 13th and 14th Amendments. This argument actually formed the basis for the Brown vs. Board of Education (1954) case where the lawyers there argued that segregation in education was a constitutional violation (Rothberg, 2021). While not pouring his energy into challenging Jim Crow, Murray also organized sit-ins in Washington D.C. to desegregate restaurants and urged classmates to go South to fight for civil rights.

Graduating in 1944 at the top of his class, Murray unfortunately found himself at another crossroads when it came to his gender. Men who graduated at the top of Howard’s law school were awarded the Julius Rosenwald Fellowship which allowed them to attend Harvard University for their graduate work. But Harvard forbid women from attending. Thus, even with a letter of support from President Roosevelt, Murray went to the University of California Boalt School of Law where he received his LLM (Master of Laws) degree. His master’s thesis was titled “The Right to Equal Opportunity in Employment.”

After graduation, Murray returned to New York City and provided support to the growing Civil Rights Movement but often had to scrape by with odd jobs. In 1948, “the women’s division of the Methodist Church asked Murray to write up an explanation of segregation laws in the U.S. The Methodist Church was against segregation and wanted to see if its parishes could disregard local segregation laws. In response, Murray produced a 746-page book, States’ Laws on Race and Color, that exposed the extent and absurdity of segregation” (Rothberg, 2021). Murray advocated for attacking segregation directly as unconstitutional instead of “trying to prove the inequality of so-called ‘separate but equal’ facilities, as was argued in some challenges” (Pauli Murray, n.d.).

As was mentioned earlier, Murray’s approach to tackling institutional racism formed the basis for the Brown vs. Board of Education (1954) case. So influential was Murray’s book that “[t]he ACLU began distributing copies of the book to law libraries, HBCUs, and human-rights organizations. Thurgood Marshall kept stacks of it around the NAACP office and referred to Murry’s work as ‘the bible’ of Brown vs. Board of Education” (Rothberg, 2021).

In 1956, Murray published his autobiography titled, Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family which showcased how white supremacy impacted his life. A little after the book was published, Murray was offered a position in a prestigious law firm in NYC. But there he was the only black person and there were only around three to four women on the team. Consequently, he left after a short while but not before snagging a boo on the way out, Irene Barlow, the office manager at the firm.

In 1960, Murray traveled to Ghana to explore his African cultural roots and teach law. While briefly there, he co-authored a book, The Constitution and Government of Ghana, with Leslie Rubin. Returning to America in the early 60s, Murray enrolled at Yale Law School “where [he] studied for the JSD degree and mentored several young women activists, including Marian Wright Edelman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Patricia Roberts Harris who all became leaders in their own right” (Pauli Murray Center, n.d.). President John F. Kennedy also appointed Murray to the Committee on Civil and Political Rights as a part of his Presidential Commission on the Status of Women.

But what really took up most of Murray’s time in the 60s was the work he did with many of the big shakers of the Civil Rights Movement such as A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, and Martin Luther King. But Murray took a very critical position with these men, often pointing out how they left behind and dismissed black women and their efforts within the movement. This is where Murray’s term “Jane Crow” really left an impression on black feminists coming up in the 80s. But while in the 60s, Murray himself tried to join the feminist movement of the time to mixed results. In 1966 he joined Betty Friedan and others to create the National Organization for Women (NOW), “but later moved away from a leading role because [he] did not believe that NOW appropriately addressed the issues of Black and working-class women” (Pauli Murray Center, n.d.). He spent his time at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) instead until he was offered a tenured position at Brandeis University teaching an early American studies program while also introducing African-American and women’s studies to the institution from 1986 to 1973. His partner Irene unfortunately passed in 1973, leading Murray to leave the University.

“Increasingly inspired by [his] connections with other women in the Episcopal Church, Murray, … attend[ed] [the] General Theological Seminary, where [he] received a Master of Divinity in 1976 with [his] thesis, “Black Theology and Feminist Theology: A Comparative Review[,]” spending the final year and a half of [his] course at Virginia Theological Seminary” (Pauli Murray, n.d.). Ordained to the diaconate in 1976, Murray in 1977 became the first African-American woman* ordained as an Episcopal priest and was among the first generation of Episcopal women priests. “That year [he] celebrated [his] first Eucharist by invitation and preached [his] first sermon at Chapel of the Cross. That was the first time a woman celebrated the Eucharist at an Episcopal church in North Carolina. […] Murray worked in a parish in Washington, DC, focusing particularly on ministry to the sick” (Pauli Murray, n.d.).

Speaking of the sick, on July 1, 1985 Murray passed away from cancer. Their autobiography, Song in a Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage, was published posthumously in 1987. The book was re-released as Pauli Murray: The Autobiography of a Black Activist, Feminist, Lawyer, Priest and Poet in 1987, and was republished under its original title with a new introduction by Patricia Bell-Scott in 2018.

His book of poetry, Dark Testament and Other Poems with a new introduction by Elizabeth Alexander, originally published in 1970 has also, like the autobiography, been reissued by Liveright Publishing, an imprint of W.W. Norton. Perhaps Murray’s most recognized work, Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family, has been in print since its original publication in 1956.

Contribution to black feminism: “Jane Crow”

Like Terrell, Murray was initially added to this list because he was someone I also read during my introductory feminist course in college. I cannot remember if his gender was ever touched upon in that class or not, but I doubt it. In either case, Murray’s coinage of the term “Jane Crow” reflects a long tradition within black feminist thinking on how race and gender intermingled in specifically challenging ways that effected the material lives of black women in every way imaginable. For Murray, this was clearly much more complicated due to his struggles with tranness, but nevertheless, his work with the Civil Rights and feminist movements were important and showed that bridging the gap between the two was often extremely difficult.

Murray, like the other people on this list, were fearless, choosing to call out not only white women for their racist hypocrisy when it came to women’s rights, but black men’s sexist hypocrisy when it came to black/racial/civil rights. While white women were crying about the right to vote, black women were getting lynched and denied civil liberties because they were black. While black men were crying about being maimed and dehumanized by Jim Crow, they refused to acknowledge how black women were alongside them experiencing similar fates and also wholly unique ones they weren’t experiencing. Being caught in between these two movements that often worked against each other instead of together is a frustration that still plagues black women and other individuals to this day.

Murray’s work as a lawyer also demonstrates how black people within the legal field have been instrumental in challenging and dismantling white supremacy throughout black history as well. Kimberlé Crenshaw, Michelle Alexander, and others are additional examples.

But did Murray come here to Earth and accomplish what their soul set out to do? He was a 6 Life Path with his North Node in Taurus with an intense Scorpio stellium.

This is an interesting combination. If Murray did not have so much Scorpio in their chart, I think most would assume such a person with this assortment of energy would be a big softy, shying away from advocacy of any sort. Indeed, the 6 is a gentle number. It is all about love, harmony, and the arts. It is a responsible number but one focused on family, community, and nurturing. Taurus can really vibe with this number. Taurus is all about enjoying life and indulging in the physical and sensual. The Moon is exalted here. Taurus is a comfortable energy. Fighting against Jim Crow—and Jane Crow—was not comfortable. It was often extremely dangerous and could easily burn out a person. But Murray, like other people during that time, did not care. He wanted to be treated like a human being and be allowed to exercise his civil liberties just like white people could. Additionally, however, he wanted to have the same rights as men—perhaps with some of this being influenced by his own issues surrounding his gender. In either case, I think that his 6 Life Path and Taurus North Node forced him to ground his emotionality in regard to being discriminated against on multiple levels within society and turn that passion into something concrete and impactful, especially as his retrograde Taurus Saturn opposed his Scorpio Jupiter intensely. And I think he did just that as it was his writing that led to a major victory during the Civil Rights Movement and influenced black feminist thought that came down the line. I wish I could say more but I feel like I would need to see the exact time of Murray’s birth to extrapolate more. So, let us move on.

Throughout this struggle [slavery to Jim Crow]…, [black] women have often carried a disproportionate share of responsibility for the black family as they strove to keep its integrity intact against a host of indignities to which it has been subjected. Black women have not only stood shoulder to shoulder with black men in every phase of the struggle, but they have often continued to stand firmly when their men were destroyed by it. […] Yet these survival values have often been distorted, and the qualities of strength and independence observable in many Negro women have been stereotyped as “female dominance” attributed to the “matriarchal” character of the Negro family developed during slavery and its aftermath. …The black militant’s cry for the retrieval of black manhood suggests an acceptance of this stereotype… Thus, …male spokesmen for Negro rights have sometimes pandered to sexism in their fight against racism.

From “The Liberation of Black Women,” Kolmar and Bartkowski, 2013, pp. 200-201

Sources

Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.paulimurraycenter.com/who-is-pauli

Pauli Murray. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pauli_Murray

Rothberg, Emma. (2021). Pauli Murray. Retrieved from https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/pauli-murray

Simmons-Thorne, Naomi. (2019, May 30). Pauli Murray and the Pronominal Problem: a De-essentialist Trans Historiography. Retrieved from https://activisthistory.com/2019/05/30/pauli-murray-and-the-pronominal-problem-a-de-essentialist-trans-historiography/

Audre Lorde (February 18, 1934 – November 17, 1992)

Traditionally, in american society, it is the members of the oppressed, objectified groups who are expected to stretch out and bridge the gap between the actualities of our lives and the consciousness of our oppressor. …Whenever the need for some pretense of communication arises, those who profit from our oppression call upon us to share our knowledge with them. In other words, it is the responsibility of the oppressed to teach the oppressors their mistakes. …The oppressors maintain their position and evade responsibility for their own actions.

From Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference, Kolmar and Bartkowski, 2013, pp. 289

Born Audrey Geraldine Lorde on February 18, 1934 to Caribbean immigrant parents, Frederic and Linda Belmar Lorde, Lorde was the youngest of three sisters in Manhattan. Talking and reading at around age 4, Lorde showed an early aptitude and interest in writing (which her mother taught her around the same time) and reading. Some of this seemed to have been sustained due to Lorde’s emotionally distant and cold relationship with her parents, her mother especially as she was colorist and that negatively impacted Lorde as the darkest child in her family. (Lorde’s mom could apparently pass as “Spanish,” which did help the family navigate white supremacist America, while her father was dark skinned.) Poetry became an avenue in which Lorde could freely express herself. “I used to speak in poetry. I would read poems, and I would memorize them,” Lorde commented in Black Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation (1984). “People would say, well what do you think, Audre. What happened to you yesterday? And I would recite a poem and somewhere in that poem would be a line or a feeling I would be sharing. In other words, I literally communicated through poetry. And when I couldn’t find the poems to express the things I was feeling, that’s what started me writing poetry, and that was when I was twelve or thirteen.”

Indeed, poetry was a large part of Lorde’s early life. She wrote her first poem in the 8th grade and used the art form to connect with other “outcasts” at school. She continued to work at the craft in high school where she became the literary editor of the school arts magazine and participated in poetry workshops sponsored by the Harlem Writers Guild. She tried to publish her first poem in the school magazine but unfortunately had it rejected because it was deemed inappropriate. That didn’t discourage her, however, as Lorde was able to get published in Seventeen.

After graduating from high school, she received her B.A. from Hunter College and an MLS from Columbia University. She served as a librarian in New York public schools from 1961 through 1968. During this time, she married a gay white man, Edward Rollins, in 1962. They had two children, Elizabeth and Jonathon, before divorcing in 1970.

A little before this divorce in 1968 Lorde was a writer-in-residence at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. Much like her brief stay at the National University of Mexico, Lorde’s residency in Mississippi was a formative experience for her as an artist and helped to re-affirm her identity as a black lesbian. “She led workshops with her young, black undergraduate students, many of whom were eager to discuss the civil rights issues of that time. Through her interactions with her students, she reaffirmed her desire not only to live out her “crazy and queer” identity, but also to devote attention to the formal aspects of her craft as a poet” (Audre Lorde, n.d.).

While at Tougaloo, Lorde met her long-time partner, Frances Clayton, and began to publish several books of poetry: The First Cities (1968), Cables of Rage (1970), From a Land Where Other People Live (1973)—which was nominated for a National Book Award, New York Head Shot and Museum (1974), Coal (1976), and Black Unicorn (1978). These works marked a transition period in Lorde’s work, shifting away from love to politics. And, indeed, it was during the 80s that Lorde’s most famous and widely quoted works stem from.

In 1977, Lorde was diagnosed with breast cancer. She reflects on her struggles with cancer treatments and her mastectomy, especially how isolating the ordeal was an open black lesbian, in her book, The Cancer Journals, in 1981. It went on to win the American Library Association’s Gay Caucus Book of the Year Award for 1981 and became a classic work of illness narrative. Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982) was a “biomythography” that shortly followed and “she claimed [it] was a ‘lifeline’ through her cancer experience. Six years after her mastectomy, Lorde was diagnosed with liver cancer, the meaning of which she explored in the title essay of [‘]A Burst of Light[’] (1988)” (Kulii, Reuman, Trapasso, n.d.).

A little before all of this in 1979, Lorde was a prominent speaker at the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Her work in advocating for LGBT rights continued in the 80s. In 1981, she along with Barbara Smith and several other writers, founded the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press. The Kitchen Table is a now defunct feminist press that was closely related to the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO) and had some ties to the Combahee River Collective due to some of members’ (i.e., Lorde, Barbara and Beverly Smith) participation. It “aimed at promoting the writing of women of color of all racial/ethnic heritages, national origins, ages, socioeconomic classes, and sexual orientations” (Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, n.d.). Although its time brief, this organization’s impact is still felt to this day. It published numerous principal feminist writings which include Alma Gómez and Cherríe Moraga’s Cuentos: Stories by Latinas (1983); Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa’s This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1984,); and Barbara Smith’s Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (1983).

Lorde’s Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (1984) was also very impactful on black feminism. Her essays and speeches here weaved together and explored her own personal experiences of blackness, womanhood, and lesbianism, and called for action among marginalized people. Her most famous essay of this collection was “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” There, and in her other essays, she stresses the importance of embracing difference and not letting its presence alienate us from one another. Trying to abandon each other or even sacrificially throwing one another into the fire for short-term gain will not eradicate the structures and institutions that oppress us all.

Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference — those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older — know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.

“The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” 1979

When it seemed like Lorde’s life was taking off and her writing, especially when it came to poetry, was hitting its stride, she was re-diagnosed with breast cancer. She died at the age of 58 on November 17, 1992, in St. Croix, where she had been living with her partner Gloria Joseph. From 1991 until her death, Lorde was the New York State Poet laureate. She was also a professor of English at John Jay College of criminal justice and Hunter College. The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde was published in 1997. In 2020, Lorde was elected as an inductee to the American Poets Corner at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. 

Contribution to black feminism: “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”; a lesbian perspective

Audre Lorde was yet another person I read for my introductory feminist class, but I don’t remember her at all. I also haven’t read her works outside of that class despite acquiring the PDFs of them when I was really into feminism. Anyway, Lorde was a 19/1 karmic debt Life Path and had her North Node in Aquarius. Any person who was involved in activist or political work tends to have Aquarius and Pisces placements like Lorde as these two signs are about advancing the collective, either more on the intellectual, mental side or emotional, spiritual side, respectively.

What I will say that is interesting about Lorde’s chart is that her North Node was intensely conjunct her Saturn. To me, that signified that Lorde had to cement her thinking and then share those thoughts to the world. It is interesting, however, that both were in the 5th house. With her South Node in the 11th house, she likely could have gone about friendship, community, and other 11th house things a bit selfishly in prior incarnations. And, indeed, her Life Path is the karmic debt one that deals with selfishness and overprioritizing the ego to negative results in past lives. I think with her Sun at the very last degrees of Aquarius, Lorde was spending this recent lifetime of hers trying to correct this karma; to see the value in other people detached from her ego. With her North Node in the 5th house, she likely did this by exploring her creativity, which we saw through her long poetry career. Poetry and her other writings were vehicles for her to not only get to know herself but in a way that was connected to the larger world she was a part of. In past lives, her ego was connected to others but likely in a way that served it and not much else. In this most recent life, Lorde learned how to connect her ego to others in a way that enlightened her to other people’s plights which in turn showed her how the world was much bigger than herself.

It was through her own enlightenment process that Lorde taught many people, many who came to understand how society was structured and how to change it for the better. I think it’s interesting how during Lorde’s time, she was sort of overlooked, likely due to her lesbianism. But now, you cannot provide a list of black feminist work without including hers. And we are fortunately in a time where people do not tip toe around her gayness or try to sanitize it so they can just pluck the things they liked that she said or coined without acknowledging how her gayness informed her work and life. So, I think because of all of this, Lorde did what her soul came here to accomplish.

Certainly there are very real differences between us of race, age, and sex. But it is not those differences between us that are separating us. It is rather our refusal to recognize those differences, and to examine the distortions which result from our misnaming them and their effects upon human behavior and expectation.

From Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference, Kolmar and Bartkowski, 2013, pp. 289

Sources

Audre Lorde. (n.d.). Academy of American Poets. Retrieved from https://poets.org/poet/audre-lorde

Audre Lorde. (n.d.). Poetry Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/audre-lorde

Audre Lorde. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audre_Lorde

Brandman, Mariana. “Audre Lorde.” National Women’s History Museum. Retrieved from https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/audre-lorde

Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitchen_Table:_Women_of_Color_Press

Kulii, Beverly Threatt, Reuman, Ann E., and Ann Trapasso. (n.d.). Audre Lorde’s Life and Career. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20151121211926/http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/lorde/life.htm

Alice Walker (February 9, 1944–)

WOMANIST

1. From womanish. (Opp. of “girlish,” i.e., frivolous, irresponsible, not serious.) A black feminist or feminist of color.

In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose, Walker, 1983

Born Alice Malsenior Walker on February 9, 1944 in Eatonton, Georgia, Walker was the youngest of eight children to Minnie Tallulah Grant and Willie Lee Walker, who were sharecroppers. At age eight, Walker was injured in her right eye after one of brothers accidently shot her in the eye with a BB gun. Because her family was poor and without a car, Walker couldn’t get medical attention, resulting in her becoming blind in that eye. Teased by her classmates and misunderstood by her family, Walker became a shy, reclusive youth, a 180 from her once lively and chatty personality, because she was self-conscious. As a result, Walker gravitated towards reading and writing. Even years after the scar tissue was removed from her eye six years later, Walker still felt alienated by others, despite being popular and valedictorian.

In 1961, Walker enrolled in Spelman College after being granted a full scholarship by the state of Georgia for having the highest academic achievements of her class. Two years later, Walker was offered another scholarship, this time from Sarah Lawrence College in New York. The early 60s was at the height of the Civil Rights Movement which Walker became more and more involved in. For instance, in 1962, she was invited to the home of Martin Luther King Jr. in recognition of her attendance at the Youth World Peace Festival in Finland. This encounter influenced her decision to eventually move back to the South. She also took part in the 1963 March on Washington. Later, she volunteered to register black voters in Georgia and Mississippi. Walker additionally worked for the New York City Department of Welfare.

In 1965, Walker graduate from Sarah Lawrence with a B.A. That same year, she published her first short story, which would be collected in the 1967 anthology, The Best Short Stories by Negro Writers, edited by Langston Hughes. Two years later, she married Melvyn Leventhal, a Jewish civil rights lawyer. They lived in Jackson, Mississippi, where Walker worked as the black history consultant for a Head Start program. She also served as the writer-in-residence for Jackson State College (later Jackson State University) and Tougaloo College. The couple were constantly harassed and threatened by racist white people and the Ku Klux Klan as they were the first interracial couple in the state’s history due to anti-miscegenation laws. (The two were married in New York City.) In 1969, Walker completed her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, the same year that her daughter, Rebecca Grant, was born.

Throughout the 70s into the 80s, Walker’s writing career took off. Her most prominent work of this era includes her 1975 article, “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston,” which was published in Ms. Magazine, a magazine she was editing at the time. With the help of literary scholar Charlotte D. Hunt, they discovered an unmarked grave they believed to be that of Zora Neale Hurston in Ft. Pierce, Florida. Walker had it marked with a gray marker stating: ZORA NEALE HURSTON / A GENIUS OF THE SOUTH / NOVELIST FOLKLORIST / ANTHROPOLOGIST / 1901–1960. An anthology titled, I Love Myself When I Am Laughing… and Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader, was published two years later in 1979. This work was instrumental in bringing Hurston’s work back into print.

A decade later in 1982, Walker published her magnum opus, The Color Purple. “Narrated through the voice of Celie, The Color Purple is an epistolary novel—a work structured through a series of letters. Celie writes about the misery of childhood incest, physical abuse, and loneliness in her “letters to God.” After being repeatedly raped by her stepfather, Celie is forced to marry a widowed farmer with three children. Yet her deepest hopes are realized with the help of a loving community of women, including her husband’s mistress, Shug Avery, and Celie’s sister, Nettie. Celie gradually learns to see herself as a desirable woman, a healthy and valuable part of the universe” (Whitted, 2003). The Color Purple was adapted into a feature film by Steven Spielberg in 1985 starring Whoopie Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, and others. In 2005, it was made into a play. The book won numerous awards and is frequently on the list of top hundred banned and challenged books in the United State each decade starting from the 90s to the present.

Walker’s next prolific work was published a year after The Color Purple—it was a collection of essays and autobiographical reflections published as In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens (1983). The book is split into three parts. The first focuses on Walker’s interest and anthropologic work in re-discovering black women and their work that was seemingly lost to time such as Zora Neale Hurston. The second part zeroed in on the Civil Rights Movement and the leaders at the time. Finally, in the third and last part, Walker reflects on black women and their struggles (In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, n.d.). This piece stands out because it is here where Walker conceptualizes the term “womanism.” She famously wrote, “womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.” In other words, womanism was for black women (and/or women of color) as it was purer to who they are—it is more wholistic and nourishing.

There is a lot more to Walker’s life, especially when it comes to her politics and how to many, they seemed to have shifted in an antisemitic direction due to her endorsement of David Icke, a prominent right wing conspiracist, among other questionable choices of hers. Because of how messy things get I’ll end her biography here.

Contributions to black feminism: womanism

When non-black women were mangling the term “insectionality,” I remember seeing black women (and other women of color) online start to move away from feminism to embrace womanism. To this day I don’t really understand the distinction between being a feminist and womanist. To me, at least, it seems like a fluffy arbitration Walker made a couple of times in passing that people took a little too literally. I understand the essence of what Walker meant, and how, from a black woman’s perspective that was likely frustrated and alienated by how white mainstream feminism has been and continues to be, why this term was appealing. Especially to younger people as “womanist” gave them a term to differentiate themselves from white feminists and something else to call themselves besides an “intersectional feminist,” which I find clunky and weird. But “womanism” doesn’t seem to have enough clarity or distinction (ironically) to be its own separate thing from feminism, I believe.

In either case, Walker is a Leo North Node with a 2 Life Path. Her charts sort of mirror Lorde’s but in the opposite direction. For Walker, she had to shift her focus away from the collective back to herself. However, with her North Node in the 9th house, I don’t think this was meant to be a complete 180. I think it was more about finding herself in others, namely her own people, in a way that celebrated them, which in turn meant she was celebrating herself. We saw this early in her career as she was instrumental in unearthing black women’s works so they could no longer be lost to time. Without Walker (and others), the world would have likely forgotten about women like Hurston and their impact on black art and history.

I think it is this dualistic approach that underlies her 2 Life Path as well. The 2 is all about relationships and emotions. It is not like the 6 which focuses more on family and community; the 2 is about the one-on-one and personal. It is not necessarily about obligations or responsibilities. In this sense, Walker didn’t have to do what she did. She did it because she wanted to, because she wanted to shine a light on people who were forgotten. And I don’t think this was for attention or praise, although Walker’s name is solely mentioned in these endeavors despite other people working with her and accomplishing similar feats in other or similar areas. I think Walker just saw a familiarity and communion with those women and wanted other black women to have these feelings as well. In this regard, I think that Walker is living out what her soul set out to do. (Minus the antisemitic leanings, of course.)

4. Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.

In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose, Walker, 1983

Sources

Alice Walker. (n.d.). American Who Tell the Truth. Retrieved from https://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org/portraits/alice-walker

Alice Walker. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Walker

In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Search_of_Our_Mothers%27_Gardens

Whitted, Qiana. (2003, Sept. 18). “Alice Walker.” Retrieved from https://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/arts-culture/alice-walker-b-1944/

Patricia Hill Collins (May 1, 1948–)

Black feminist thought fosters a fundamental paradigmatic shift that rejects additive approaches to oppression. Instead of starting with gender and then adding in other variables such as age, sexual orientation, race, social class, and religion, Black feminist thought sees these distinctive systems of oppression as being part of one overarching structure of domination. Viewing relations of domination for Black women for any given sociohistorical context as being structured via a system of interlocking race, class, and gender oppression expands the focus of analysis from merely describing the similarities and differences distinguishing these systems of oppression and focuses greater attention on how they interconnect. Assuming that each system needs the others in order to function creates a distinct theoretical stance that stimulates the rethinking of basic social science concepts.

From Black Feminist Thought, Collins, 1990, pp. 221–238

Born on May 1st, 1948 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Patricia Hill Collins was the only child of Albert Hill and Eunice Rudolph. Growing up in the 50s and 60s, Collins had the opportunity to attend desegregated schools which later greatly influenced her sociological work as she was often the first or only black person, girl, or working-class individual in numerous spaces. In 1965 she pursued a sociology degree at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. She graduated cum laude with honors with a B.A. in sociology in 1969. A year later she earned a M.A. in Teaching (MAT) in Social Science Education from Harvard University in 1970. From 1970 to 1976, she was a teacher and curriculum specialist at St. Joseph Community School among others in Roxbury, Boston, a predominantly black neighborhood in Boston. From 1976 to 1980, Collins made the transition to higher academia when she became the Director of the Africana Center at Tufts University.

By 1984, Collins completed her doctorate in sociology at Brandeis once more. While earning her PhD, Collins worked as an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati beginning in 1982. This is where she forged her career, working at the university for 23 years and serving as the Chair from 1999 to 2002. In 2005 she retired as the Charles Phelps Taft Distinguished Professor of Sociology.

In 1986, Collins published her groundbreaking article, “Learning from the Outsider Within,” in Social Problems which put her on the map as a sociologist and social theorist. “In this essay, she drew from the sociology of knowledge to critique the hierarchies of race, gender, and class that cast her, an African American woman from a working-class background, as an outsider within the academy” (Cole, 2020). The ideas presented in her essay eventually became known as “standpoint theory,” a sociological and/or black feminist theoretical framework that informs many leftist and activist thinking today much like “identity politics” or “the personal is political.” In the simplest terms I can describe it without all the added fluff and purposeful obfuscation by white academics, “standpoint theory” asserts that the marginalized (here black women) due to their marginalization and oppression are able to foster a unique perspective on their oppression and the larger workings of society more generally. This was a very important development in sociology, Collin’s field, because during that time in the 80s, the discipline didn’t concern itself with the ideas, theories, and insight from marginalized individuals. Standpoint theory and much of Collin’s other work alongside other black academics forced white academia to consider other perspectives and challenged dominant social theories. As one can imagine, although some of these concepts are more or less (begrudgingly) accepted in the social sciences now, there was considerable pushback and an irrational rage towards placing importance on the lives and thoughts of people who were once regarded as a footnote, if that.

Regardless of white feelings, past and present, this essay laid the foundation for Collin’s great book, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (1990), which chronicles and dissects what black feminist thought is and how black women have been trying to make sense of their lives within the confines of gender, race, class, etc. I’ve read part of the second edition of this book and highly recommend it if you want a comprehensive overview of black feminism, especially the ideas and epistemologies of it, past and present.

It is in this book, too, that Collins coined the term “matrix of domination.” If you have engaged with any black feminist work, you would know that black women since time immemorial have grappled with their position in society—how they are not only black but women, black women. Being a black woman comes with unique challenges and a perspective on life that makes it hard to separate the two. We are not just women nor only black; we’re both. Building off of standpoint theory then, the “matrix of domination” is a sociological framework that contends that multiple systems of oppression or domination come together in ways that forms a complex matrix. Does this sound familiar to “intersectionality”? That’s because the two are not fundamentally different—at least I argue but numerous academic sources have seemed to have retroactively erased “matrix of domination” in favor of “intersectionality” for whatever reason. It’s just that “intersectionality” became so popular online during the 2010s that it is now more ubiquitous than “matrix of domination.” It probably helps that “intersectionality” is a much “simpler” concept and does not require much wrestling with larger sociological ideas like the “matrix of domination” does. By this I mean Collins lays out how this matrix works into four interrelated domains of power that function together to maintain the status quo. “In addition to being structured along axes such as race, gender, and social class, the matrix of domination is structured on several levels,” Collins writes in Black Feminist Thought. “People experience and resist oppression on three levels: the level of personal biography; the group or community level of the cultural context created by race, class, and gender; and the systemic level of social institutions. Black feminist thought emphasizes all three levels as sites of domination and as potential sites of resistance.”

I think it is because “matrix of domination” requires more critical thinking and reflection than the watered down and defanged “intersectionality” we see tossed around online that most people have likely never heard of the term and why it never resurfaced. Before I go off on how I have issues with the usage and frankly whitewashed version of “intersectionality,” let us continue on with Collins’s biography.

Eight years after Black Feminist Thought, Collins returns with another book centering black feminist epistemology and challenging sociology to move away from theories and ideas that continue to center white thinking at the expense of everyone else in Fighting Words: Black Women and the Search for Justice (1998). In 2004 she came out with another hard-hitting book titled, Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender and the New Racism. There Collins examines how racism and heterosexism combines in ways that inform how black people engage with sex, sexuality, beauty, relationships, and perceptions of gender and gender presentation.

Two years later in 2006, Collins published From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism. Like the title suggests, she examines black nationalism, feminism, and racism from the Black Power Movement to the then present of hip hop and its growing ubiquitous nature. How was pop culture shaping the minds and identities of black people?

From 2009 to now, Collins has continued to focus on the plight of black people with some works veering more towards specific issues such Another Kind of Public Education: Race, Schools, the Media and Democratic Possibilities (2009) focusing on black children in the educational system and The Handbook of Race and Ethnic Studies (2010) looking at critical race theory. Within the last five to seven years, Collins has interestingly accepted “intersectionality” as a praxis and wrote and talked about it extensively. Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory was published in 2016 and revised and co-written with Sirma Bilge in 2020.

Contributions to black feminism: Matrix of domination, standpoint theory, black feminist epistemology, controlling images

Collins’s impact on black feminism is unmatched, perhaps only rivaled by bell hooks. Collins’s work introduced many new concepts to the field that helped to shape it in contemporary times. Likewise, her work has done much to shift sociology in a more inclusive direction. Indeed, I read Collins many times during my sociology understudy. I remember thinking at the time that she was perhaps a “safe” black writer to read based on the passages I had to read but after reading her work outside of university such as Black Feminist Thought, I came to realize that she was not as “soft” or defanged as I thought. It was just that my school didn’t make us read the “realer” stuff that wasn’t “fluffy” or served the white academic agenda. Anyway, Collins is a Taurus North Node (and Sun and Mercury) with a 6 Life Path.

Many people on this list have some combination of these energies. I think when a person’s North Node is in Taurus, there is a desire to make reflections on the material world. Taurus is an energy that is “simple” but that shouldn’t deceive us into thinking it is “stupid.” Knowing how the world works from a physical or organic standpoint is extremely valuable even when we are living lives that seem unreal or even detached from this material interaction. I think with her Mercury practically on top of her North Node, Collins was motivated to make some sense of her world through her writing and thoughts. Although her work and theories do talk about how society is structured and how oppression functions, I think the continued stressing of the personal perspective is very much Taurus here. Taurus is only the second sign in the Zodiac, so although its viewpoint is wider than Aries’s, it is still limited to what it can see before it. This isn’t “bad” because as Collins has shown through her work, it is this intimate perspective that can give insight into much larger issues or even challenge prevailing modes of thought that may be oppressive in their own right.

With her 6 Life Path this intimate perspective then gets connected to the larger world. If a black woman is oppressed by her gender, race, class, sexuality, etc. what does that mean for the communities she belongs to? What does that say about those various systems of domination in relation to how society functions?

I think because Collins was able to make the observations that she has made and have such a wide-reaching impact on her field and those outside of it, she is living out what her soul came (back) here to live.

Knowledge is a vitally important part of the social relations of domination and resistance. By objectifying African-American women and recasting our experiences to serve the interests of elite white men, much of the Eurocentric masculinist worldview fosters Black women’s subordination. But placing Black women’s experiences at the center of analysis offers fresh insights on the prevailing concepts, paradigms, and epistemologies of this worldview and on its feminist and Afrocentric critiques. Viewing the world through a both/and conceptual lens of the simultaneity of race, class, and gender oppression and of the need for a humanist vision of community creates new possibilities for an empowering. Afrocentric feminist knowledge. Many Black feminist intellectuals have long thought about the world in this way because this is the way we experience the world.

From Black Feminist Thought, Collins, 1990, pp. 221–238

Sources

Cole, Nicki Lisa, Ph.D. (2020, December 22). Biography of Patricia Hill Collins, Esteemed Sociologist. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/patricia-hill-collins-3026479

Patricia Hill Collins. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patricia_Hill_Collins

Nain, Astha. (n.d.).  Patricia Hill Collins: Biography, Major Works, Black Feminist Thought. Retrieved from https://www.sociologygroup.com/patricia-hill-collins-biography-major-works-black-feminist-thought/

bell hooks (September 25, 1952 – December 15, 2021)

As a group, black women are in an unusual position in this [American] society, for not only are we collectively at the bottom of the occupational ladder, but our overall social status is lower than that of any other group. Occupying such a position, we bear the brunt of sexist, racist, and classist oppression. At the same time, we are the group that has not been socialized to assume the role of exploiter/oppressor in that we are allowed no institutionalized “other” that we can exploit or oppress. (Children do not represent an institutionalized other even though they may be oppressed by parents.) White women and black men have it both ways. They can act as oppressor or be oppressed.

From From Margin to Center, hooks, 1984, pp.14-15

Born Gloria Jean Watkins on September 25, 1952, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, to a working-class family, hooks was one of seven children. hooks’s childhood was difficult and plagued by dysfunction led by her father. This led hooks to escape into writing and poetry. She would often recite poem and scriptures in her church congregation. But even this escape was stifled by the world around her.

Growing up in the segregated South “instilled in bell hooks a fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. These early fears almost discouraged her from pursuing her love of writing. She received almost no support from her family, who felt that women were better suited for a more traditional role” (Jankowski, 2019). It didn’t help that hooks had to deal with the fierce racism that occurred during the desegregation process of the 60s as well.

Despite her hardships, hooks excelled academically. After graduating from Hopkinsville High School, she went on to Stanford University and received her B.A. in English in 1973. Three years later she obtained her M.A. in English from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1976. It was during this time, 1971 specifically, that hooks was writing her seminal book Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism. She was only 19 at the time. Before the book was officially published in 1981, hook began her academic career in 1976 as an English professor and senior lecturer in ethnic studies at the University of Southern California. In 1978 she published her first work, a book of poetry titled, And There We Wept. It was published under the pseudonym “bell hooks” in honor of her great maternal grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks, who had a great influence of her growing up. She chose to write the name in all lower case to emphasize the content of work and not herself.

The 80s into the 90s saw hooks at her most active. She completed her Ph.D. in English at Santa Cruz in 1983 and taught at several post-secondary institutions, including the University of California, Santa Cruz, San Francisco State University, Yale (1985 to 1988, as assistant professor of African and Afro-American studies and English), Oberlin College (1988 to 1994, as associate professor of American literature and women’s studies), and, beginning in 1994, as distinguished professor of English at City College of New York.

Also in the 80s, hooks published highly influential books on black feminism. In 1981, she published Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism which looked back at history from slavery to the black nationalist movements and reflected on how black women were marginalized by both sexism and racism not only by what she dubbed as “white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy” but by white women and black men. It was a scathing critique of black and feminist movements that left black women by the wayside despite black women being in the intersection of both. This book went on to heavily influence contemporary black feminist movements and thought to this very day.

Three years later in 1984, hooks published Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, which in many ways is a follow up Ain’t I a Woman but focused more on critiquing feminism and how white dominate it has been, and advocated that theory and literacy—”the ability to read, write, and think critically” (bell hooks, n.d.)—are necessary for the feminist movement.

From this point onward, hooks cemented herself as a pinnacle in (black) feminist theory as well as media analysis. She went on to publish over 30 books in her lifetime and numerous videos that dissected popular media and its portrayals of black people. She also published children’s books and numerous materials on how to combat racism and sexism. Love and healing were also subjects she touched upon throughout her career. When it comes to the LGBT community, hooks had softened on her somewhat more critical responses and beliefs, especially when it came to trans women. And it seems as though this may have been influenced by hooks exploring her own sexuality, which she called “queer-pas-gay,” which translates to “queer not gay.” Although this is a bit vague on her part, it seems as though hooks had embraced some sort of “queerness” towards the end of her life.

Unfortunately, after a long illness, hooks died from renal or kidney failure at her home in Berea, Kentucky on December 15, 2021. She was 69 years old. Berea College, where she was a Distinguished Professor in Residence, created the bell hooks Institute in 2013 to preserve her legacy and opened the bell hooks Center in September 2021. In 2018, she was inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame.

Contributions to black feminism: Being the “mother” of black feminism

bell hooks’s reputation proceeds her. You cannot engage with black feminism, especially online, without at least hearing of her once. She has been elevated as the “mother” of black feminism almost. And that’s for good reason. Her work is more accessible in the sense that it is often written in an informal way that is easy for people of all sorts of backgrounds to engage with. hooks was also in the public eye a few times as well, often for her more controversial takes and pieces such as when she called Beyoncé a terrorist or when she had that uncomfortable conversation with Laverne Cox. So, unlike a lot of academic feminists, hooks image and work are more readily available in the public consciousness, either for “good” or “bad” reason.

hooks was the first feminist’s work I ever read. I remember getting her Ain’t I a Woman and From Margin to Center from my local library in high school and had my world open up intellectually. I watched so many of her speeches and presentations on YouTube afterward. I think her work influenced me to study sociology over psychology because sociology made sense of the world for me. What is a bit ironic about this, however, is that college is when I fell off my feminist/sociological bag I was in lol. Regardless, hooks was instrumental in shaping what I thought feminism could be—that it could be black and actually have something it could offer to black women. And I think that is a reason why so many black women and feminists gravitate towards and advocate for bell hooks.

In either case, hooks was an Aquarius North Node with an intense Libra stellium and 6 Life Path. I’ve looked up hooks’s chart before and I think her Libra stellium, which includes the ruler of her North Node (Saturn), is the reason why she wanted to make her work accessible to a wide audience and that in turn greatly influenced how she wrote. That is, she didn’t write specifically for the academic world; she wanted to connect to the everyday person she was writing about. And I think it was this desire to reach out to the ordinary person that helped to shape what her Aquarius North Node pushed her to do, which was to take the knowledge she amassed and give it to the masses detachedly. Sometimes Aquarius can have the common problem all air signs experience in that they don’t know how to talk to people outside of their bubble. We see this all the time with people in the academy, especially as teachers. You know the ones, the ones that for whatever reason cannot teach what they already know to someone else who doesn’t have a background in the field or level of expertise they have. Therefore, they tell their students straight up that most will not pass or that the average is typically barely a C- if it even gets that high lol. It makes one wonder why they choose to teach or are forced to if that is the case. So, with hook’s Libra stellium in conjunction (not literally here) with her Aquarius North Node she did what was perhaps “unusual” at the time and had frequent dialogue with the common folk which in turn shaped how she disseminated her knowledge. Because remember she also wrote children’s books and had numerous lectures and other discussions with other scholars made free or readily available to the public. For other feminist scholars, say like a Judith Butler in the extreme case, where can you have such an ease of entry to their work? I think that’s changing in more recent times but hooks’s work was often made with the intention of educating everyone, not just for other intellectuals or academics.

I think this focus on the common person can be attributed to her 6 Life Path as well. The 6 as I have mentioned is about love and community. For hooks then, she saw it as her duty to lend that hand to her community and the larger community of humanity. What good would her work be if it was locked away and was something only “worthy” people could access and engage with? I think for hooks she really wanted to enlighten and empower others, especially black women. And I think she accomplished that during her life here on Earth.

As people of color, our struggle against racial imperialism should have taught us that wherever there exists a master/slave relationship, an oppressed/oppressor relationship, violence, mutiny, and hatred will permeate all elements of life. There can be no freedom for black men as long as they advocate subjugation of black women. There can be no freedom for patriarchal men of all races as long as they advocate subjugation of women. Absolute power for patriarchs is not freeing. …Freedom…as positive social equality that grants all humans the opportunity to shape their destinies in the most healthy and communally productive way can only be a complete reality when our world is no longer racist or sexist.

From Ain’t I a Woman?, hooks, 1981, pp. 117

Sources

bell hooks. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_hooks

Jankowski, Lauren. (2019, February 19). Biography of bell hooks, Feminist and Anti-Racist Theorist and Writer. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/bell-hooks-biography-3530371

Liptrott, Josphine. (2016, Mar. 16). Biography: Bell Hooks – Author, Activist. Retrieved from https://www.theheroinecollective.com/bell-hooks/

Quintana Ph. D., M. (2010, January 11). bell hooks/Gloria Jean Watkins (1952-2021). BlackPast.org. Retrieved from https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/hooks-bell-gloria-jean-watkins-1952/

Other Thoughts

When I was really into feminism back in high school into college, the dominant narrative of the field was taught as such: there were three waves of feminism, maybe even four. The first one was defined by the suffragist whose main goal was getting women the right to vote. The second wave was where radical feminism hit the scene. This type of feminism was more direct. It was also unfortunately marked by biological essentialism and a constant attack on porn, sex workers, and trans women. The third and often “final” wave is where ~women of color~ were “allowed” to come in and often taught the ignorant white women of the movement of their plights. Other marginalized women like lesbians did the same time but they are often lumped in with the second wave. We also got things like “post-modern feminism” and gender as performance as concepts à la Judith Butler and others during this time. This wave greatly moved away from the prior wave’s biological essentialism but some assert that by doing so, it moved to “social essentialism” and sex was rendered “useless” in favor of examining gender. Some scholars say there is a fourth wave that seems to be defined by the internet. Feminism as an identity and a descriptor emerged here. Feminism was no longer an ideology or complex theory; it was more a brand and marketing tool. A person could be “feminist,” and so could media.

While I was in school learning this “history,” I remember questioning it until I outright rejected it as I started to read literature by black feminists. Why? Because this “wave” theory is whitewashed. It describes white women’s history of feminism and then tries to add women of color later like we’ve only contributed to the field by the 80s and it was only to teach ignorant white women. That’s racist and false and absolves how white feminists have historical been racist and exclusionist.

From the very beginning, black women have been wrestling with their race and gender and how that has affected their lives. Come on, even in the whitewashed Sojourner Truth speech all the way back in 1851/1863 demonstrates this. There were black suffragists. There were black feminist organizations. Black women didn’t get the right to vote until black people got the right to really vote in 1966. Are we really supposed to believe they had nothing to say about that or anything else until the 80s? Seriously? Black feminism and feminist thought didn’t just appear out of thin air to lecture white women. It was in the making as long as—or even longer!—than white feminism. White women have simply dismissed their black contemporaries because they often spoke of racism and fought for black rights. Since they didn’t single mindedly focus on the plight of women and “womanhood,” they were categorized as race activists instead. Only when their work was more directly talking about women enough for their liking were they “accepted” and seen a part of feminist history.

Smh.

Anyway, I hope you all learned something from my somewhat ranty article this month. I was fun to go down memory lane with some of these people and their work. I hope that I piqued your interest in some of their works. Perhaps they can open your mind like they did mine so many years ago!

Honorable Mentions

Sojourner Truth

Almost every piece of black feminist work references Sojourner Truth and her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech all the way back in the 1850/60s. Although what exactly she said at that time is still up to debate because white abolitionists had a certain agenda they wanted to push, Truth’s speech once against demonstrates how black women have been thinking about their lives in terms of the intersections of race and gender since we were brought here against our wills.

Angela Y. Davis

More known for prison abolitionist work and involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, she has written on how race, gender, and class effect black women as well. Women, Race & Class (1981) is such a piece, although her works in general deal with these subjects overall.

Kimberlé Crenshaw

A law professor whose coinage of the word “intersectionality” exploded on the internet like it was a brand-new concept and holy grail of feminist thinking. It is interesting that she was using the term within the context of legality as it is difficult within court cases to argue that a person was discriminated on the basis of more than one identity, in the example she gave, race and gender as it pertains to black women. In the eyes of the law, you had to frequently pick one and only one, so Crenshaw was trying to demonstrate how that is almost impossible to do because the nature of certain cases calls attention to more than one type of discrimination. In either case, people, mostly non-black women, took this term and ran it into the ground. Often using it to describe a “type” of feminism as opposed to a theoretical tool for social, or rather legal, analysis, and frequently combining it with “privilege politics” to make strange social commentary on how a person could be oppressed and privileged at the same time. What I love about Crenshaw is that she has been firm in pushing back against how people commonly use her term. She seems to maintain where the term came from—a legal context—and how it was never meant to be used in the odd ways people still use it for. From the videos I have seen over the years, she seems kinda over it when it comes to people asking her to elaborate on the term and validate people’s usage of it along with responding back supposed “critiques” of the term that come from its misuse. Regardless of how she or I feel, however, “intersectionality” is here to stay, (unfortunately,) even retroactively erasing other terms that describe the same phenomenon such as “matrix of domination.”

Crenshaw discussing “intersectionality”

Moya Bailey

Coining the term “misogynoir,” Bailey is another example of how black feminist epistemology was increasingly entering the lexicon of black women online. In this case, Bailey first used the term online in the blog, Crunk Feminist Collective. Today, when a person is describing anti-black sexism/misogyny, most will use the term “misogynoir.” The term “transmisogynoir” was apparently coined by Trudy of the defunct womanist blog Gradient Lair to describe anti-black transmisogyny.

Mikki Kendall

I was originally going to put her on this list but didn’t due to time and also because there wasn’t a lengthy biography I could write up. Her bibliography is also a bit sparse. In either case, Kendall represents intellectuals who are critiquing more mainstream and academic black feminism and assert that their focus and analysis often exclude “ratchet” or “hood” black women behind. In this regard, Kendall is often described as one of the main shakers of hood or ratchet feminism, a black feminism that focuses a lot on black women in hip hop and asserts how their portrayals and careers are actually empowering and not a reflection of “white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy” like many black feminist scholars contend. Other influencers of ratchet/hood feminism include the co-creator of the Crunk Feminist Collective Brittney Cooper, and Joycelyn Wilson.


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References

Kolmar, Wendy K. and Frances Bartkowski (Eds.). (2013). Feminist Theory: A Reader. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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