Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women

Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women

Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women

Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women

Synopsis

Despite recent advances in the study of black thought, black women intellectuals remain often neglected. This collection of essays by fifteen scholars of history and literature establishes black women's places in intellectual history by engaging the work of writers, educators, activists, religious leaders, and social reformers in the United States, Africa, and the Caribbean. Dedicated to recovering the contributions of thinkers marginalized by both their race and their gender, these essays uncover the work of unconventional intellectuals, both formally educated and self-taught, and explore the broad community of ideas in which their work participated. The end result is a field-defining and innovative volume that addresses topics ranging from religion and slavery to the politicized and gendered reappraisal of the black female body in contemporary culture. Contributors are Mia E. Bay, Judith Byfield, Alexandra Cornelius, Thadious Davis, Corinne T. Field, Arlette Frund, Kaiama L. Glover, Farah J. Griffin, Martha S. Jones, Natasha Lightfoot, Sherie Randolph, Barbara D. Savage, Jon Sensbach, Maboula Soumahoro, and Cheryl Wall.

Excerpt

Since the 1773 publication of Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, black women artists, activists, and intellectuals have provided critical insight into issues of national and global importance. Shaped by lives lived at the crossroads of race, gender, and justice, their ideas have been distinctive but often ignored. Only with the explosion of black feminist literary criticism in the 1970s and 1980s did Wheatley and other African American women writers begin to receive serious scholarly attention, much of which was dedicated to challenging the exclusion of such writers from the traditional literary canons. Still, despite increased visibility that pioneering works by brilliant critics such as Barbara Christian and Nellie McKay brought to black women writers from Wheatley to Toni Morrison, black women thinkers remain largely neglected outside of the field of literary criticism. Historical scholarship on black women especially has yet to map the broad contours of their political and social thought in any detail, or to examine their distinctive intellectual tradition as often self-educated thinkers with a sustained history of wrestling with both sexism and racism.

This neglect persists even as black women thinkers have become more prominent. Black women thinkers took on new visibility in 1992 when novelist and public intellectual Toni Morrison published a collection of essays on the Anita Hill–Clarence Thomas controversy, Race-ing Justice, Engendering Power. Morrison aimed to provide much-needed “contextualized and intellectually focused insights” into how race and gender influenced late twentieth-century law and politics in the United States. Over half of the collection’s nineteen essays were authored by black women, and its publication proved to be a defining moment for black women thinkers, who took the lead in explaining how a peculiar historical nexus of race and gender drove a spectacle in law, politics, and media. More publicly than ever before, black women’s voices joined with those of other critical thinkers to make sense of the relationship between history, politics . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.