Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era

Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era

Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era

Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era

Synopsis

In this comprehensive history, Ashley D. Farmer examines black women's political, social, and cultural engagement with Black Power ideals and organizations. Complicating the assumption that sexism relegated black women to the margins of the movement, Farmer demonstrates how female activists fought for more inclusive understandings of Black Power and social justice by developing new ideas about black womanhood. This compelling book shows how the new tropes of womanhood that they created--the "Militant Black Domestic," the "Revolutionary Black Woman," and the "Third World Woman," for instance--spurred debate among activists over the importance of women and gender to Black Power organizing, causing many of the era's organizations and leaders to critique patriarchy and support gender equality.



Making use of a vast and untapped array of black women's artwork, political cartoons, manifestos, and political essays that they produced as members of groups such as the Black Panther Party and the Congress of African People, Farmer reveals how black women activists reimagined black womanhood, challenged sexism, and redefined the meaning of race, gender, and identity in American life.

Excerpt

As readers finished the July 1, 1972, edition of the Black Panther Party’s newspaper, they found a full-length, mixed-media image of a middle-aged black woman on the back page. the woman, dressed in hair rollers, a collared shirt, an apron, and no shoes, stares directly at the viewer, one hand on her hip; the other supports a bag of groceries from the Panthers’ free food program. the woman also prominently displays her button in support of Panther leader Bobby Seale’s mayoral campaign. the caption above contextualizes the woman’s politics and party support: “Yes, I’m against the war in Vietnam, I’m for African Liberation, voter registration and the people’s survival!” This image was one of over a dozen pieces of artwork that Panther Party member Gayle Dickson created, many of which featured black women leading protests and championing party programs. Not only did her artwork translate the party’s expansive Political agenda, it also reflected how the Panthers— often thought to be a male-dominated Organization— expressed and promoted its agenda through images of black women.

Dickson’s artwork was emblematic of the diversity of black women’s politi cal expression in the Black Power era. Beginning in the 1950s, black activists and intellectuals increased their efforts to develop oppositional institutions and practices designed to bring about black Political, cultural, and social autonomy. By the time that Dickson became an artist for the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s, Black Power had coalesced into a worldwide movement dedicated to fundamentally redefining race, class, and gender hierarchies. the image described here was one of myriad expressions of Black Power that black women developed during the early 1970s, the height of the era in which black activists fundamentally re imagined black manhood, womanhood, and empowerment through Political expressions that ranged from electoral politics to Pan-African solidarity efforts.

More than simply party propaganda, Dickson’s art was a window into some of the common ways in which black women imagined their Political roles and potential during the Black Power era. in this image alone, she illustrated how they envisioned themselves as militant domestics and revolutionary black women. She also showed how they often identified as . . .

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