Barbara Smith: Mother of Black Feminism, Revolutionary Publisher

Day 22 of the Pride 30 Project for Pride Month, 2018.

“Because I came out in the context of black liberation, women’s liberation and–most significantly–the newly emerging black feminist movement that I was helping to build, I worked from the assumption that all of the ‘isms’ were connected.”

Putting ideas articulated within the Combahee River Collective Statement into practice, Smith also transformed the emerging academic disciplines of Black and Women’s Studies and the publishing industry. Black Studies, developed as an academic arm of the Civil Rights Movement and broader anti-racist struggles, Smith noted, focused on the lives and experiences of black men, whereas Women’s Studies, developed as the academic wing of the second-wave Women’s Movement, focused on the lives and experiences of white women. In 1973, Smith taught one of the first university courses on black women’s literature at Emerson College in Boston and began writing criticism of black women’s literature that was attentive to issues of sexuality. In her landmark essay “Toward a Black Feminist Criticism,” first published in 1977, she posited a lesbian reading of the characters Sula and Nel from Toni Morrison’s 1973 novel Sula.

Queer History For the People

QHFTP aims to make LGBTQ history and culture available, and accessible, to all. We cannot work effectively for change unless we know where we've been and the history of those made invisible by mainstream narratives.

Jeffry J. Iovannone

Written by

Scholar-activist; Queer thinker; Primary writer for Queer History for the People; Columnist for Th-Ink Queerly. E-mail: QueerHistoryFTP@gmail.com

Queer History For the People

QHFTP aims to make LGBTQ history and culture available, and accessible, to all. We cannot work effectively for change unless we know where we've been and the history of those made invisible by mainstream narratives.