Monday, February 17, 2014

Lewis Gordon, black feminism, and Black intellectual tradition

By Briana Whiteside
“The main concerns of black feminism range from equality for black women to the privileging of black women's perspectives, experiences, and political location in all aspects of social life. Its development has posed challenges to the foundations of many fields in the humanities, social sciences, and life sciences by bringing intersecting considerations of gender and race to bear on methodological assumptions and data.” --Lewis Gordon

In “Black Intellectual Tradition,” Lewis Gordon explains the tenants of black feminism and its evolution. Gordon writes that black feminism “has roots in the nineteenth century” based on the works and efforts of “Maria Stewart, Martin Delany, Frederick Dougalss, Ana Julia Cooper, Mary Church Terrell,” to name a few. In the twentieth century, writings by Suzanne Cesaire, Claudette Jones, Angela Davis, and Toni Cade Bambara present the idea that it is important to study “the plight of black women” to help in the “understanding of American capitalism and freedom struggles.”

Black women writers such as Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones, and Gloria Naylor, as well as Nalo Hopkins and Zora Neale Hurston focus on the struggles and psychological wellbeing of black women by making black women characters central to their novels. In turn, black feminist scholars such as Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, Akasha Gloria Hull, Beverly Guy-Sheftall and Hazy V. Carby, for instance, have created a large body of writings to address the confinement of black women in America. Their works contribute to the canon of black feminist theory.

Moreover, Barabara Smith, Trudier Harris, and political scientist Melissa Harris-Perry have addressed the limitations placed on black women through harmful stereotypes, more specifically, the strong black woman characterization. Their observations about isolation in black womanhood, the power of black female bodies, and the importance of communal spaces for black women have expanded views of black feminism.

The complexities of black women's lives have been the foundation of black feminist theory and works.

Briana Whiteside is a graduate student in English at SIUE and a contributing writer for the Cultural Front.    

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