Showing posts from June, 2016

Books: Too Heavy a Load and Storming Caesar's Palace

In Too Heavy a Load, Deborah Gray White profiles a group of black women who seek to establish a set of moral standards for other black women in the spirit of racial uplift. She notes, “chastity became the litmus test of middle-class respectability…Middle-class status in black society was associated was much with ‘style of life’ as with income” (30). In other words, gender performance was also class performance, targeting white audiences. For clubwomen, defending their womanhood is an assertion that black women are just as feminine and worthy of respect as white women. While attempting to climb social, economic, and cultural ladders, black clubwomen left many behind, feeling that some black women did not measure up to middle-class standards of cultural refinements. Some rural blacks rebuked the “high falutin’” ways of clubwomen. For example, hair straightening techniques were rejected for preferred multicolored headwraps. This form of resistance is a demonstration of gender, race, and …

Books: Living for the Revolution and Radicals on the Road

Kimberly Springer’s Living for the Revolution explores issues of race, gender, and representation in feminist theory. This work is one of the first thorough analysis of black feminist organizations chronicling the history of black women’s social organizations in the twentieth century. Springer argues that black feminist organizations engaged in interstitial politics to “connect to political opportunity and identity specific to race and gender with social movements.”[1] Furthermore, she states, “I maintain that black feminists are historically, the first activists in the US to theorize and act upon the intersections of race, gender, and class.”[2] She invites readers to to reconceptualizes black women’s roles in social movements for social justice. When black women are marginalized in the civil rights movement as well as the women’s movement, stereotyped in popular culture, and misrepresented in public policy, black feminist organizations emerged in response, utilizing feminist theory …

Books: Liberated Threads and Territories of the Soul

Liberated Threads takes a transnational approach to discussing how black women have used hair, clothing, jewelry, and style as fashion statements and more importantly as tools of resistance from the 1960s through the 80s or more specifically from the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements in the United States and the United Kingdom to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. She refers to this form of activism as “soul style.” The soul style movement differs from the social movements of the 60s, 70s, and 80s in that typical narratives focus on integration, policy, and pivotal moments such as protests and marches. Ford intervenes in the conversation by focusing on the simple act of getting dressed everyday. She demonstrates that while every black person was not into political organizing, they were indeed engaged in fashion, therefore she explores the ways in which fashion and style connected black people, especially black women globally for black liberation. Liberated Threads speak…

Books: Sisters in the Struggle and The Black Woman

Sisters in the Struggle is a collection of sixteen essays that explore black women’s social and political activism throughout the twentieth century. Edited by Bettye Collier-Thomas and V.P. Franklin, this anthology is divided into five parts to highlight “autobiographical, biographical, and sociopolitical change.” These essays focus on black women’s contributions to and roles in the black liberation movement by placing them at the center of the long civil rights movement, a movement whose literature has marginalized black women. Examining the years between 1915 and 1996, this anthology emphasizes black women’s personal reflections, leadership roles, participation in black nationalism, feminism, and politics. The opening essay in part one is a powerful discussion on black women and race in Jim Crow America by Mary McLeod Bethune. The other essays in this first section focus on Ella Baker and black women’s organizations that laid the groundwork for foot soldiers in the movement during t…