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 the 1950s. In part two, the personal narratives of Rosa Parks, Charlayne Hunter- Gault, and Dorothy Height, highlight the significant events in their lives such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, integrating the University of Georgia, and the 1963 March on Washington. In these recollections are discussions of the intersection of racism and sexism. These memoirs along with the essays in part three, underline the critical roles black women have fulfilled in local, regional, and national civil rights organizations such as the WPC, SCLC, CORE, NAACP, and the MFDP. The last two sections of the book changes gears as the attention focuses on the changes that took place from the 60s through the 90s. Given the timeline of the book, the editors are championing for a long civil rights movement, which ultimately transitions to the Black Power Movement. The essays in part four look at the legacy of the CRM and BPM and black women’s experiences in shaping political and social spheres. The final essay in part five sums up the book by examining black women entering the political arena as social changes from the CRM and BPM helped them to do so.       



The Black Woman edited by Toni Cade Bambara is an anthology that consists of a diverse body of literature ranging from poetry by Nikki Giovanni and Audre Lorde, stories by notable novelists such as Toni Cade Bambara, Paule Marshall and Alice Walker, essays by activists like Helen Cade Brehon, Frances Beale, and Grace Lee Boggs, and personal reflections from Carole Brown and Joanna Clark. The writings in this anthology explore an abundance of issues black women face such as race, gender, rape, colorism, self-definition, self-improvement, black feminism, and black men. As one of the first texts to present a broad range of black women’s thought from the CRM to Black Power and women’s liberation, the purpose of this text is not to articulate a black feminist thought/ideology but rather to bring much needed attention to the lives of black women through critiques and analyses for a freedom movement for black women’s liberation from racism, sexism, and poverty; issues at the center of the movement’s mission. France Beale’s essay, “Double Jeopardy,” is one of the first works to articulate the notion of multiple oppressions black women face. Published in 1970, this volume “open[ed] a door and prove[d] that there was a market” for this type of work.  

The Black Woman speaks to the Beverly Guy-Sheftall edited collection, Words of Fire. Contributing to this interdisciplinary volume are the voices of black women as activists, artists, novelists, and preachers to name a few as they address numerous issues such as multiple oppressions- race, gender, and class. Also included in the conversation are works that respond to texts that leave out the voices of womanists and feminists of color for example, Michele Wallace’s Black Macho, bell hooks’ Ain’t I a Woman and Talking Black, Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black, Angela Davis’ Woman, Race, and Class, and Gloria Hull et al All the Women Are White, All the Men Are Black, Some of Us Are Brave. Since I have mentioned the long civil rights movement in terms of black women’s activism, I see a conversation with the historian who coined the tern, Jacquelyn Dowd Hall. In addition, I also see a conversation with the anthology Southern Black Women in the Modern Civil Rights Movement edited by Bruce A. Glasrud and Merline Pitre. While not looking at a LCRM, discuss the activities of black women in the south during the 50s and 60s, which was influenced by the work started generations prior.

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