Books: Sojourning for Freedom and Radicalism at the Crossroads
Sojourning for Freedom begins in the 1920s with the conclusion of the first wave of feminism through the 1970s with the beginning of third wave feminism. Situating the narrative within the conceptual framework of “black left feminism,” McDuffie traces the political lives of black radical women such Claudia Jones, Grace Campbell, Esther Cooper Jackson, Williana Borroughs, and Audley “Queen Mother” Moore. Since there has been an “overwhelming attention to the church, women’s clubs, and the Garvey movement” that tend to overshadow other types of black women’s radical activism, this book is a study strictly focusing on numerous black radical communist women (6). Choosing to study these women as individuals, he decides to illuminate their activities as “part of a community of black women radicals whose collective history spanned more than fifty years” (7). Through their involvement with the Communist Party, McDuffie demonstrates how these women not only joined the party but also fulfilled leadership roles as they worked on critical campaigns such as the Scottsboro Boys and Free Angela Davis as well as community-based programs in neighborhoods such as Harlem. Their association with the Communist Party is also filled with conflict as McDuffie highlights the ways in which these black women were “outsiders within” an organization that is predominantly male and white.
In Radicalism at the Crossroads, Gore’s purpose is to “insert both the analysis of black women radicals and their collective experiences into the history of postwar radicalism by centering their insights and documenting their contributions to sustaining a black left politics well into the 1970s” (162). The activities of black women radicals demonstrate their “commitment to advancing women’s equality and an internationalist vision of the black freedom struggle” (3). During a time when black women are relegated to domestic labor throughout cities in the U.S., the radical activities of black leftist women demonstrate them traveling extensively from the U.S to the Soviet Union, Europe, and Asia. This mobility, along with their experiences with organizing and internationalist politics, “helped to solidify their contributions as leaders and strategists with national and transnational reach” (10). Gore shows that while most of these women participated in the Communist Party or Popular Front as well as civil rights organizations, they steadily confronted the limited articulations of race, class, and gender. These women formed a network consisting of women who formed new organizations and also considerably impacted organizations already in existence.
Since these texts demonstrate black radical feminists fighting for and using their journalism skills to chronicle the struggles of black women as domestic laborers, I see them speaking to texts that focus specifically on the lives of black women as domestic laborers and their everyday lives as activists and everyday women from the end of the nineteenth century through the twentieth century. The texts that come to mind are Rebecca Sharpless’s Cooking in Other Women’s Kitchens, Living In, Living Out by Elizabeth Clark-Lewis, Making a Way Out of No Way by Lisa Krissoff Boehm, Georgina Hickey’s Hope and Danger, Tera Hunter’s To Joy My Freedom, and Jacqueline Jones’s Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow.