The Archive of Black Women's Memory: A Liberation Experience

By Smith, Holly | Resources for Gender and Women's Studies: A Feminist Review, Summer-Fall 2018 | Go to article overview

The Archive of Black Women's Memory: A Liberation Experience


Smith, Holly, Resources for Gender and Women's Studies: A Feminist Review


For numerous reasons, Black women's lives have historically been marginalized in the archives. Racism, sexism, patriarchy, and heteronormativity have erased the nuanced, diverse experiences of women of the African Diaspora in the written record. During the last few decades, various repositories have made concerted efforts to document the experiences of Black women, and a number of texts have analyzed how the omission of women's stories gravely impacts the historical record. However, the importance of diverse communities of Black women being empowered to document their own experiences and tell their stories cannot be overstated. These voices are a radical reclamation of Black women's nuanced experience. For as Black women have historically been subjugated societally, so too have our herstories.

How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective situates Black women's archive of memory as critical to the narrative of the Combahee River Collective's (CRC's) herstory. By interviewing foremothers Demita Frazier, Barbara Smith, and Beverly Smith about how their own experiences growing up shaped them as Black feminists, scholar Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor positions their voices as vital to the origins of the historic CRC statement. Taylor's conversation with #BlackLivesMatter founder and activist Alicia Garza brings the conversation to the present-day influence of Black feminist ideology on current liberation movements. Taylor profoundly notes that "[a]s Demita Frazier says, the point of talking about Combahee is not to be nostalgic; rather, we talk about it because Black women are still not free" (p. 14).

I was surprised by the structure of this book. Initially I assumed Taylor was offering a scholarly analysis of the CRC, following a linear historiography of the organization, a brief overview of the women involved, a discussion about situating the collective into the narrative of feminist theory, and a conclusion about where to go next. Upon discovering the book centered on the interviews with the scholar-activists, I was interested to see how Taylor's questions would shape the conversations with the Smith sisters, Frazier, and Garza. In some ways, the interviews served to be an even more powerful witness to the continued relevance of the CRC. The conversations felt simultaneously informal and formal, familiar and new, historically significant and currently relevant.

Taylor's introduction expertly situates the CRC within the contemporary political climate, the historic significance of the statement and the collective, and the continued relevance of CRC ideologies for true revolutionary change for oppressed communities. Recounting how Black women are still disproportionately affected by economic oppression and inequality, she notes, "The Combahee River Collective built on those observations [by previous Black women intellectuals and activists] by continuing to analyze the roots of Black women's oppression under capitalism and arguing for the reorganization of society based on the collective needs of the most oppressed" (p. 5).

The CRC statement is printed in its entirety in the book as an excellent preface to the interviews. Readers can learn the herstory behind the collective and get a clear understanding of its ideologies as well as an overview of the state of Black feminism before and during the 1970s. The collective's members speak of the "interlocking" oppressions Black women face--an ideological precursor to scholar Kimberle Crenshaw's powerful concept of intersectionality. (1) The passage below provides a salient summation of one of the CRC's key positions:

Black feminists often talk about feelings of craziness before becoming
conscious of the concepts of sexual politics, patriarchal rule, and
most importantly, feminism, the political analysis and practice that we
women use to struggle against our oppression. The fact that racial
politics and indeed racism are pervasive factors in our lives did not
allow us, and still does not allow most Black women, to look more
deeply into our own experiences and, from that sharing and growing
consciousness, to build a politics that will change our lives and
inevitably end our oppression. … 

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Archive of Black Women's Memory: A Liberation Experience
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.