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Black Feminist Literary Criticism

Past and Present – With an Introduction by Cheryl A. Wall

Edited By Karla Kovalova

Since its inception, black feminist literary criticism has produced a number of sophisticated theoretical works that have challenged traditional approaches to (black) literature. This collection of essays explores past and current productions of black feminist theorizing, attempting to trace the trajectories in black feminist criticism that have emerged in American scholarship since the 1990s. Taking black feminist literary criticism as the subject of inquiry, the book focuses on the field’s recent theoretical contributions to literary productions and their impact on other fields. The volume contains an introduction by Cheryl A. Wall, and essays by Karla Kovalova, Heike Raphael-Hernandez, and Nagueyalti Warren.
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Home Girls and Sister Outsider: The Roots of Black Feminist Literary Criticism

← 28 | 29 →Nagueyalti Warren


Feminism for black women in the United States most likely began during their enslavement. The feminist stance of women fugitives from slavery, including Harriett Tubman and Sojourner Truth, and of free women of color as well as the women evangelist and itinerant preachers Maria Stewart, Jerena Lee and Julia Foote, who dared to challenge the Church hierarchy, are just the well-known examples. Lee, Foote, Stewart, and Frances Gaudet left for us autobiographies that interrogate issues of race, class, and gender,1 just like the enslaved Harriet Jacobs, who documented her attempt at seizing control of her own sexuality and recorded her actions in Incidences in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861). While the connection between white first-wave feminism and the second-wave feminism that came to fruition in the late 1960s and 1970s is clear, the link between first-wave black feminists and second-wave black women involved in the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements is less clear.

During the second-wave feminist movement, many black women faced a dilemma their predecessors seem not to have confronted, that is whether to choose between a movement of white women or a black movement aimed at liberating black people. First-wave black feminists were abolitionists, suffragists, anti-lynching crusaders, temperance supporters and advocates for gender and sexual equality. They were not blind to racism in white women’s organizations, nor were they insensitive to the sexism existing in black organizations. They confronted these issues as they struggled for justice. In a speech before the Eleventh...

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