Emergence and Growth of African American Women's Poetry

By Kumari, Tanima; Singh, Rajni | IUP Journal of English Studies, December 2017 | Go to article overview

Emergence and Growth of African American Women's Poetry


Kumari, Tanima, Singh, Rajni, IUP Journal of English Studies


Introduction

"Other" is also a mask, an oppressive talk hiding gaps, absences that space where our words would be if we were speaking, if there were silence, if we were there. This "we" is that "us" in the margins, that "we" who inhabit marginal space that is not a site of domination but a place of resistance. Enter that space. Often this speech about the "Other" annihilates, erases: "No need to hear your voice when I can talk about you better than you can speak about yourself. No need to hear your voice. . . . Rewriting you, I write myself anew. I am still author, authority. I am still the colonizer, the speaking subject, and you are now at the center of my talk." (hooks 1990b, 152)

Defying the concept of "Other" and labeling it as "mask," hooks (1990b) contemplates on the space where the hegemonic class provides limited access to the power of knowledge for the black women. Instead, the whites are the "authors," holding the "authority" and

penning about the status of the black women which would elevate the stature of the whites. African American women are believed to be not capable enough to voice their own experiences in their writings. This kind of stereotypical attitude of the whites is severely criticized by the black feminists, and subsequently they focus on the fact that black women must be rendered with a voice of their own. Eventually, many black women poets have strived to earn recognition in the most inhospitable conditions for the black women. Expounding on the spaces, hooks (1990b, 152) propagates that "Spaces can be real and imagined. Spaces can tell stories and unfold histories. Spaces can be interrupted, appropriated, and transformed through artistic and literary practice." It is from this space that the black women strive to write and "move in solidarity" to efface the hegemonic relations between the whites and the blacks using their "marginality as [a] site of resistance" (hooks 1990b, 152). Moreover, the African American women can be aptly called, in the words of Angelou (1984), the "caged bird," and their survival truly delineates their endurance which closely resembles the ideology of Darwinism. Defining oppression as "multiple jeopardy," King (1988, 69) emphasizes that the black women should develop a "political ideology capable of interpreting and resisting that multiple jeopardy." The revolt makes the black women visible in the mainstream struggle.

Most black feminists accept the "intersectionality of social movements" (Chun, Lipsitz, and Shin 2013, 920), expressing the requirement ofthe progressive political support when they theorize the intersections of race, sexuality, and gender to establish their lost identity in the mainstream society. The women writers of African American literature have "used the Word as both a tool and a weapon to correct, to create, and to confirm their visions of life as it was and as it could become" (Mitchell and Taylor 2009, 1). Truth's (1998) Narrative of Sojourner Truth is a narrative of slave as well as a spiritual narrative of a woman. Black women writers have been distinctly contributing to the literary tradition since the eighteenth century, but unfortunately, their writings were largely unacknowledged by literary connoisseurs until the 1960s. The 1960s brought in greater visibility to African American women's literature, which came into existence largely due to the progressive policies and reforms of the 1960s giving rise to women's studies programs in the colleges and universities of the USA. This change has been possible because:

With the dismantling of legal segregation and the political and social enfranchisement of African Americans as a result of the civil rights movement, historically white colleges and universities in the United States began diversifying not only their student bodies, but also their curricula. (Mitchell and Taylor 2009, 2)

The usage of the term "black women's studies" (Hull, Scott, and Smith 1982, xvii) serves as an enactment which is filled with political appreciation. …

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