Okay Ladies, Now Let’s Get Information
So you’ve heard (and seen) Beyonce’s new single, “Formation.” And then saw it again. And one more time. And then watched her Super Bowl performance. Well, once you’re done freaking out because Queen Bey is back, get inspired to investigate the long and glorious history of black feminism and activism backing Bey up. Feel free to keep listening your Beyonce playlist while you read.
- At the Dark End of the Street by Danielle L. McGuire
This history investigates the often neglected role of black women in the Civil Rights Movement, focusing on the beginnings of the movement in the resistance and activism of black women against ritualized rape of black women by white men. In part through highlighting the work of NAACP lawyer Rosa Parks, McGuire restores the radicalism and activism of black women to the forefront.
2. Women, Race, & Class by Angela Y. Davis
An influential theorist and long powerful voice, this 1983 book explores the history of the women’s movement in the United States and the role of classism and racism in hampering its goals. As feminism continues to grapple with intersectionality and white bias, this book is as relevant as ever. (Angela Davis also just released a new book, Freedom is a Constant Struggle, which illuminates the connections between struggles against state violence and oppression across the world.)
3. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
This collection of Audre Lorde’s writings explores race, gender, and sexuality in a range of essays. Lorde’s skill with language — she was also a poet — shines through, and every one of her essays is a call to “never close our eyes to the terror, to the chaos which is Black which is creative which is female which is dark which is rejected which is messy which is…”
4. Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching by Paula Giddings
Ida B. Wells, born in the late 19th century, was one of the earliest black feminist leaders in the Civil Rights Movement. An outspoken abolitionist and investigative journalist, she documented lynchings as a systematic campaign of intimidation and was active in the push for women’s suffrage. This biography focuses on her campaign to bring a halt to lynchings in the South, crafting a portrait of a visionary reformer decades ahead of her time.
5. From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
This new release focuses on the mass protests that followed the police murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and the #BlackLivesMatter movement that arose from them. Taylor explores the history behind the apparently sudden outcry, focusing on mass incarceration and structural and economic inequality that disproportionately affects black people. A vital new book of history still in the making.
6. Beyond the Pale: White Women, Racism, and History by Vron Ware
With hashtags like #solidarityisforwhitewomen, the shortcomings of white, upper-class feminism have come into focus. Ware’s history demonstrates that this is not a new phenomenon: many women’s movements in the United States have been marred by racism and the exclusion of black women from their ranks.
7. Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman by Michele Wallace
Michele Wallace’s 1978 release caused a storm of controversy for its attack on the masculine bias of black politics. She described how women remained marginalized by the patriarchal culture of Black Power, demonstrating how black women remained oppressed by stereotypical ideas of motherhood.
8. Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America by Melissa Harris-Perry
Melissa Harris-Perry, who also has a “Black Feminist syllabus” online, dissects the common stereotypes that limit black women, such as the Mammy, the Jezebel, the Sapphire. She explores their origins and dissects the damage they cause and how they change and distort the lives of the women they impact.
9. Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts
This highly topical book highlights the impact of the legislation, social policy, and welfare “reform” of the 90s on black women’s — especially poor black women’s — control over their bodies’ autonomy, exploring topics such a coerced birth control or sterilization and the stigma against black mothers on welfare. She demonstrates the long legal history of how and when American law permits the state to interfere with black women’s bodies.
10. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Okay, it’s an old one, but if you haven’t read the transcript of Adichie’s TED Talk, famously sampled in Beyonce’s “***Flawless”, now’s the time to do it. It’s a short read that inspires and uplifts, with its simple message that nonetheless voices facts that are too seldom spoken. (And if you like her style, don’t forget to check out Adichie’s fiction!)