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The only journal for scholarly research at the intersection of philosophy and women's studies, Hypatia is a leader in reclaiming the work of women philosophers and is indispensable for those interested in philosophy.

Coverage: 1986-2012 (Vol. 1, No. 1 - Vol. 27, No. 4)

Moving Wall: 5 years (What is the moving wall?)

The "moving wall" represents the time period between the last issue available in JSTOR and the most recently published issue of a journal. Moving walls are generally represented in years. In rare instances, a publisher has elected to have a "zero" moving wall, so their current issues are available in JSTOR shortly after publication.
Note: In calculating the moving wall, the current year is not counted.
For example, if the current year is 2008 and a journal has a 5 year moving wall, articles from the year 2002 are available.

Terms Related to the Moving Wall
Fixed walls: Journals with no new volumes being added to the archive.
Absorbed: Journals that are combined with another title.
Complete: Journals that are no longer published or that have been combined with another title.

ISSN: 08875367

EISSN: 15272001

Subjects: Feminist & Women's Studies, Social Sciences, Philosophy, Humanities

Collections: Arts & Sciences V Collection

Black feminism is a school of thought stating that sexism, class oppression, gender identity and racism are inextricably bound together.[1] The way these concepts relate to each other is called intersectionality, a term first coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989.[2] In her work, Crenshaw discussed Black feminism, which argues that the experience of being a black woman cannot be understood in terms of being black or of being a woman. Instead, each concept should be considered independently while including the interactions that frequently reinforce each other.[3]

Black feminism became popular in the 1960s, as the consequence of the Civil Rights Movement that supposedly excluded women, and the supposed racism of feminist movement. From the 1970s to 1980s, black feminists formed various groups which addressed the role of black women in black nationalism, gay liberation, and second-wave feminism. In the 1990s, the Anita Hill controversy placed black feminism in a mainstream light. Black feminist theories reached a wider audience in the 2010s, as a result of social media advocacy.[4]

Proponents of black feminism argue that black women are positioned within structures of power in fundamentally different ways from white women. The distinction of black feminism has birthed the derisive tag "white feminist", used to criticize feminists who do not acknowledge issues of intersectionality.[5] Critics of black feminism argue that racial divisions weaken the strength of the overall feminist movement.[6]

Among the theories that evolved out of the black feminist movement are Alice Walker's womanism, and historical revisionism with an increased focus on black women.[7][8]Angela Davis, bell hooks, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, and Patricia Hill Collins have emerged as leading academics on black feminism, whereas black celebrities, notably Beyoncé, have encouraged mainstream discussion of black feminism.[9][10]


The black feminist movement grew out of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s, stemming from groups like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Black Panthers and other such groups. Organizations like the National Black Feminist Organization, found that many civil rights and Black Power organizations were unwilling to take up causes that were central to the lived experiences of black women (forced sterilization, legal abortion, domestic violence, safe and well-paid job opportunities for black domestics, etc...).Often, many women who later became black feminists, found that sexism was rampant throughout many of the more traditional civil rights organizations, as well as the Black Power organizations.

The place where racial equality and gender equality meet, called intersectionality, is an area often overlooked by many. Activist and cultural critic Angela Davis was one of the first people to articulate a written argument centered on intersectionality, in Women, Race, and Class.[11]Kimberle Crenshaw, a prominent feminist law theorist, gave the idea the name intersectionality in 1986–1987 as part of her work in anti-discrimination law, as part of describing the effects of compound discrimination against black women.[12] Another feminist theorist, Patricia Hill Collins, introduced the sociological theory of matrix of domination; much of her work concerns the politics of black feminist thought and oppression.

Throughout the plight of African Americans, from post slavery oppression until modern inequality disputes, African American women have experienced this intersection of racial and gender inequality. The fight for equality on both fronts has immense historical background, and various intersections throughout this history. What many consider to be a culmination of the fight for racial equality was the Civil Rights Movement, from 1958 to 1972. While this was happening, the fight for gender equality was culminating as well, and certainly not taking a backseat to the civil rights movement. The peak of Second-wave feminism was occurring simultaneously alongside the civil rights movement. Throughout these events, black feminism was the intersection of the two, and the progress made was influential to both racial and gender equality. Despite its relation, black feminism originated and evolved along its own path, separate from mainstream feminism and the early civil rights movement.

Post-slavery period – 1920s[edit]

Beginning in the post slavery period, black female intellectuals that included Frances Ellen Watkins Harper set in motion the principles that would become the basis for black feminism. Harper's ideas, although not necessarily well known, were the beginning of black feminism.

Activists, such as Harper, proposed "some of the most important questions of race, gender, and the work of Reconstruction in the nineteenth century", a very bold action for a black woman at the time.[13] These intellectuals accomplished things that were unheard of for black women, such as giving public lectures, fighting for suffrage, and aiding those in need of help following reconstruction. Suffrage was early evidence of schisms between white and black feminism. According to Harper, white women needed suffrage for education; however, "black women need the vote, not as a form of education, but as a form of protection".[13] The right to vote would not only bring these women closer to the power that men had, it would give black women an influence on the politics which oppressed them. Another difference was the higher importance of heritage for black women and knowing the plight of their ancestors. These ideas were transported through mediums, such as lectures and literature, making it accessible for men and women, whites and blacks alike. Aspects of the work of early leaders such as Harper laid down the basis for black feminism, as these principles would continue to be retained by later iterations and evolutions of black feminism.

1920s to 1960[edit]

Although many wave metaphors of feminist and Civil Rights activism leave out the few decades after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, this was a particularly important moment in the development of black feminist activism.[14] During this period, a few radical black female activists joined the Communist party or focused on union activism. Although they did not all identify as feminists, their theorizing included important works that are the foundation for theories of intersectionality--integrating race, gender, and class. In 1940, for example, Esther V. Cooper (married name Esther Cooper Jackson), for example, wrote a M.A. thesis called "The Negro Woman Domestic Worker in Relation to Trade Unionism."[15] And in 1949 Claudia Jones wrote "An End to the Neglect of the Problems of the Negro Woman."[16]

Other feminist activism and organizing happened around cases of racial and sexual violence. For example, Esther Cooper and Rosa Parks organized to help Recy Taylor. In 1944, Taylor was the victim of a gang rape; Parks and Cooper attempted to bring the culprits to justice.[17] Black feminist activists focused on other similar cases, such as the 1949 arrest of and then death sentence issued to Rosa Lee Ingram, a victim of sexual violence. Defenders of Ingram included the famous black feminist Mary Church Terrell, who was an octogenarian at the time.[18]

1960s and 1970s[edit]

In the second half of the 20th century, black feminism as a political and social movement grew out of black women's feelings of discontent with both the Civil Rights Movement and the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

One of the foundation texts of black feminism is An Argument for Black Women's Liberation as a Revolutionary Force, authored by Mary Ann Weathers and published in 1969 in Cell 16's radical feminist magazine No More Fun and Games: A Journal of Female Liberation.[19] Weathers states her belief that "women's liberation should be considered as a strategy for an eventual tie-up with the entire revolutionary movement consisting of women, men, and children", but she posits that "[w]e women must start this thing rolling"[19] because

All women suffer oppression, even white women, particularly poor white women, and especially Indian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Oriental and Black American women whose oppression is tripled by any of the above-mentioned. But we do have females' oppression in common. This means that we can begin to talk to other women with this common factor and start building links with them and thereby build and transform the revolutionary force we are now beginning to amass.[19]

Black women and the Civil Rights Movement[edit]

Not only did the Civil Rights Movement primarily focus on the oppression of black men, but many black women faced severe sexism within civil rights groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. A group of women in the SNCC (who were later identified as white allies Mary King and Casey Hayden) openly challenged the way women were treated when they issued the "SNCC Position Paper (Women in the Movement)".[20] The paper listed 11 events in which women were treated as subordinate to men. According to the paper, women in SNCC did not have a chance to become the face of the organization, the top leaders, because they were assigned to clerical and housekeeping duties, whereas men were involved in decision-making.[21]

When Stokely Carmichael was elected Chair of SNCC, he reoriented the path of the organization towards Black Power. Thus, white women lost their influence and power in SNCC; Mary King and Casey Hayden left, to become active in pursuing equality for women.[22] While it is often argued that black women in the SNCC were significantly subjugated during the Carmichael era, Carmichael appointed several women to posts as project directors during his tenure as chairman. By the later half of the 1960s, more women were in charge of SNCC projects than during the first half.[23] Despite these improvements, the SNCC's leadership positions were occupied by men during the entirety of its existence.[24]

The civil rights era was a pivotal time for black feminism, and spurred the evolution and definition of it, as the two movements worked alongside each other. At the same time, the Second Wave feminist movement was in full force. This was the perfect time for black feminism to thrive. The intersectionality of gender and racial equality movements formed black feminism into its own movement and cause. As the black power movement arose Black Power, their principles of the importance of civil rights along with separation from whites had an effect on the black feminist movement, including separation from white feminists. Influence spread to the unofficial symbol of black feminism.

This combination of the raised fist of black power, and the astrological symbol for Venus, denotes an intersection of ideals of the two groups. Ideals were shared, such as a "critique on racial capitalism, starting with slavery". Despite this, black feminism had reasons to become independent of Black Nationalism. Black feminism had been cast "as a negotiation of the sexism and masculinism (and sometimes heterosexism) of Black Nationalism".[25] The racial equality and reverence for their race was retained, while the sexism they carried was rejected. This action allowed black feminism to independently define itself, and more so than merely in relation to Black Nationalism and the Black Power movement.

Second-wave feminism[edit]

The second-wave feminist movement emerged in the 1960s, led by Betty Friedan. Black women were alienated by the main planks of the second-wave feminist movement. For example, earning the power to work outside the home was not an accomplishment for black women. Many black women had to work both inside and outside the home for generations due to poverty.[26] White feminists at the time advocated for the liberation of birth control, but there was little thought given in regard to black women's needs for access to contraception. Angela Davis, for instance, showed that while Afro-American women and white women were subjected to multiple unwilled pregnancies and had to clandestinely abort, Afro-American women were also suffering from compulsory sterilization programs.[27]

Some black feminists who were active in the early second-wave feminism include civil rights lawyer and author Florynce Kennedy, who co-authored one of the first books on abortion, 1971's Abortion Rap; Cellestine Ware, of New York's Stanton-Anthony Brigade; and Patricia Robinson. These women "tried to show the connections between racism and male dominance" in society.[28] Neither feminism nor the civil rights movement confronted the issues that concerned black women specifically. Because of their intersectional position, black women were being systematically ignored by both movements.

As feminism evolved as a whole, so did its demographics. Throughout the 20th century, black feminism evolved quite differently from mainstream feminism. It retained historical principles, while being influenced by new thinkers such as Alice Walker. Walker created a whole new subsect of black feminism, called Womanism, which emphasized the degree of the oppression black women faced when compared to white women. In addition, she retains the importance of heritage in black feminism, through her passionate medium of literature, exemplified in a 2011 interview.


Black women's voices were continuously marginalized but groups were formed that stood up in the face of oppression. In the early 1990s, AWARE (African Woman's Action for Revolutionary Exchange) was formed in New York by Reena Walker and Laura Peoples after an inspiring plenary session on black women's issues held at the Malcolm X Conference at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) entitled Black Women and Black Liberation: Fighting Oppression and Building Unity.[29]

AWARE went on to lead fights against the AMA and unnecessary medical procedures and was central to the anti-war movement during the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Reena Walker was featured regularly on WLIB Gary Byrd's show and WBAI radio, and AWARE forged alliances with Women in Limbo, The Harlem Birth Action Center, as well as various black coalitions and ad hoc groups. AWARE's voice was essential to the representation of black women in the anti-war movement. Reena coined the phrase "Our War is Here Not in The Persian Gulf". AWARE regularly held seminars, forums and panel discussions on black women's issues in Harlem. The panelists included Verniece Miller, Carlotta Joy Walker, Asha Bandele, Ann Tripp and a host of other black women feminists authors, activists and artists to discuss and inform the public about the specific issues black women were dealing with in their communities and how the larger issues affected them on a local level.

In 1991, The Malcolm X Conference was held again at BMCC and the theme that year was "Sisters Remember Malcolm X: A Legacy to be Transformed". It featured plenary sessions, "Sexual Harassment: Race, Gender and Power" and was held in a much larger theater that year. Black women were a central focus and not an aside as they were prior. Speakers included Sonia Sanchez, Audre Lorde, Verniece Miller, Reena Walker, Carol Bullard (Asha Bandele) and Vivian Morrison.[30] In 1991, Reena Walker along with the members of AWARE also worked in coalition with AWIDOO (American Women in Defense of Ourselves), formed by Barbara Ransby, to sign a full-page ad in the New York Times to stand in support of Anita Hill.[31]

In 1995, Reena Walker went on to put out the call to various women and organized the group African Americans Against Violence[32] that effectively stopped a parade that a group of reverends led by Al Sharpton were attempting to hold in Harlem for Mike Tyson.[33] The group, including Eve and Kathe Sandler, Nsia Bandele and Indigo Washington, worked tirelessly and successfully stopped the parade from happening, bringing much needed attention to the struggle of black women and sexism and domestic violence.[34] A supporter of Mike Tyson, social worker Bill Jones, exclaimed "The man has paid his debt" (in regards to Tyson's rape conviction), and joined a large group of other Tyson supporters in heckling the African Americans Against Violence group, accusing them of "catering to white radical feminists".[34] The effort on the part of these women to build a larger and ongoing black grassroots women's movement was minimized by these hecklers.

21st century[edit]

The new century has brought about a shift in thinking away from "traditional" feminism which was generally considered to cater disproportionately to white women while failing to acknowledge the struggles of black women. Third wave feminism highlighted the need for more intersectionality in feminist activism and the inclusion of black women and other women of color. Moreover, the advancement of technology has fostered the development of a new digital feminism. This online activism involves the use of "Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, and other forms of social media to discuss, uplift, and activate gender equality and social justice. According to NOW Toronto, the internet has created a "call-out" culture, in which sexism or misogyny can be called out and challenged immediately with relative ease."[35] The use of technology coupled with an increased focus in the experiences of women of color, disabled women, LGBTQ women, and other marginalized groups of women is considered by some an entirely new wave of feminism altogether, fourth wave feminism.

As an academic response to this shift, many scholars have incorporated queer of color critique into their discussions of feminism and queer theory.[36][37]Queer of color critiques seeks an intersectional approach to disidentifying with the larger themes of "racialized heteronormativity and heteropatriarchy" in order to create a more representative and revolutionary critique of social categories.[38][39][40] An example of queer of color critique can be seen in the Combahee River Collective'sstatement, which addresses the intersectionality of oppressions faced by black lesbians.[41]


The 2010s have seen a revitalization of Black Feminism as a result of "black feminist thought spreading via big and small screens". As more and more influential figures began to identify themselves as feminist, social media saw a rise in young black feminists willing to "push the conversation forward" and bring racist and sexist situations to light.[42] Assistant professor in the Department of Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, Brittney Cooper, states "I think Black feminism is in one of the strongest moments it has seen in a while; From Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC, to Laverne Cox on Orange Is the New Black to Beyoncé ... we have prominent Black women identifying publicly with the term."[43] Social media proves to be an effective medium for young black feminists to express praise or discontent with organizations' representations of black women. For example, the 2015 and 2016 Victoria's Secret Fashion Shows were commended for letting four black models wear their natural hair on the runway. Black feminists on social media celebrated the embrace of the Natural hair movement using the hashtags #melanin and #blackgirlmagic.[44] On the other side of the spectrum, social media has been a useful tool to police companies that are found being racist or sexist. Issues such as appropriation of black culture are quickly brought to light on social media as labeled problematic. For example, a 2015 Vogue Italia photo shoot involving model Gigi Hadid wearing an afro sparked backlash on twitter, instagram, and facebook for the appropriation of black hair. Many users vocalized it was problematic and racist to have a white model wear an afro and a fake tan to give the appearance of blackness when the fashion magazine could have hired a black model instead.[45] One reason why appropriation of black hairstyles on white people has become a particularly touchy subject in black feminism is because of the double standard that when white women wear black hairstyles, they are deemed "trendy" or "edgy" while black women are labelled "ghetto" or "unprofessional".[46]

Black feminists have also voiced the importance of increasing representation of black women in television and movies. According to a 2014 study by the University of Southern California, of the 100 top films of that year "nearly three-quarters of all characters were white," NPR reports, and only 17 of those 100 top movies featured non-white lead or co-lead actors. Of course, that number is even lower if you just look at non-white women leads, considering only one-third of speaking roles were for women, according to the same study.[47] The lack of representation of black men and women was attributed to the misconception that minority lead characters do not appeal to audiences as well as white characters, especially overseas. However, that excuse is consistently debunked when films centered around black characters fare quite well globally, including, but not limited to, the 2011 film, The Help (film), and the 2016 film, Hidden Figures. Both films had multiple black women in lead roles, were lasting box office successes, and were nominated for multiple Academy Awards. Additionally, the idea that minority lead characters do not sell movies fails to acknowledge the fact that movies centered around white characters are just as able to do poorly.[48]

In 2017, Black women rarely have positive role models in the media. Kimberl'e Crenshaw from the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) states, "The widespread coverage of race and gender inequality in Hollywood often excludes black women. The wage gap for black women in the entertainment industry is a symptom of a larger issue: the invisibility and devaluing of black women in media culture as performers, producers, and directors. " Black feminists are not present in modern media. Black Feminists need to make progress in their movement by creating a media platform to help advocate their voices and to inspire others.[49]

Black Lives Matter[edit]

Black Lives Matter, an activist movement that was formed to campaign against racism and police brutality against African Americans, has contributed to a revitalization and re-examining of the Black Feminist movement.[50] The movement itself was started by three black women, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, and has been viewed as a Black Feminist Movement first, rather than as a part of the larger feminist movement.[51] Black Lives Matter largely accepts the intersectionality of women of color, and how interlocking systems of oppression work against African American women in particular.[52] The movement has also been critical of White Feminism as only focusing on the oppression of white women and not looking at how intersectionalities of class, race, and culture have been harming marginalized groups.[53] According to academic scholar Angela Davis, “Black Women face a triple oppression” of racism, classism, and sexism and Black Lives Matter has been a largely grassroots movement focused on including intersectional voices.[54] Activism of Black Feminists in Black Lives Matter include the protests of political candidates such as Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton and hashtags such as #oscarssowhite, and #sayhername.[55]

Black feminist identity politics and safe spaces[edit]

Black feminist identity politics can be defined as knowing and understanding one's own identity while taking into consideration both personal experience as well as the experiences of those in history to help form a group of like-minded individuals who seek change in the political framework of society.[56] It also can be defined as a rejection of oppressive measures taken against one's group, especially in terms of political injustice.[56]

Black feminist writer Patricia Hill Collins believes that this 'outsider within' seclusion suffered by black women was created through the domestic sphere, where black women were considered separate from the perceived white elite who claimed their dominance over them.[57] They also felt a disconnect between the black men's suffering and oppression.[57] As a result of white feminists excluding black women from their discourse, black feminists expressed their own experiences of marginalization and empowered black consciousness in society.[57] Due to the diverse experiences of black women, it is imperative to Collins to speak for and of personal accounts of black women's oppression.[57]

Identity politics have often implemented race, class, and gender as isolated categories as a means of excluding those who aren't perceived as part of the dominant group.[58] These constructed biases formed from race, class, and gender are what feminist Kimberle Crenshaw believes need to be used, not as a means of degradation, but as a form of empowerment and self-worth.[58] Ignoring these differences only creates more of a divide between social movements and other feminist groups, especially in the case of violence against women where the caliber of violence is correlated with components such as race and class.[58]

Another issue of identity politics is the conflict of group formations and safe spaces for black women.[56] In the 1970s, increased literacy among black women promoted writing and scholarship as an outlet for feminist discourse where they could have their voices heard.[56] As a result, black women sought solace in safe spaces that gave them the freedom to discuss issues of oppression and segregation that ultimately promoted unity as well as a means of achieving social justice.[56]

As the notion of color-blindness advocated for a desegregation in institutions, black women faced new issues of identity politics and looked for a new safe space to express their concerns.[56] This was met with a lot of contention as people saw these black female groups as exclusive and separatist.[56] Dominant groups, especially involved in the political sphere, found these safe spaces threatening because they were away from the public eye and were therefore unable to be regulated by the higher and more powerful political groups.[56]

Despite the growth in feminist discourse regarding black identity politics, some men disagree with the black feminist identity politics movement.[59] Some black novelists, such as Kwame Anthony Appiah, uphold the notion of color-blindness and dismiss identity politics as a proper means of achieving social justice.[59] To him, identity politics is an exclusionary device implemented in black culture and history, like hip hop and jazz, that limit outsider comprehension and access.[59] However, writer Jeffery A. Tucker believes that identity politics serves as a foundation where such color-blindness can finally be achieved in the long run if implemented and understood within society.[59] It can be the beginning of the black feminist movement's growth and hope for change.[59]


Black feminist organizations had to overcome different challenges that no other feminist organization was forced to face. Firstly, these women had to "prove to other black women that feminism was not only for white women".[60] They also had to demand that white women "share power with them and affirm diversity" and "fight the misogynist tendencies of Black Nationalism".[60] With all the challenges these women had to face, many activists referred to black feminists as "war weary warriors".

The short-lived National Black Feminist Organization was founded in 1973 in New York by Margaret Sloan-Hunter and others (The NBFO stopped operating nationally in 1975[61]). This organization of women focused on the interconnectedness of the many prejudices faced by African-American women, such as racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.[62] In 1975, Barbara Smith, Beverly Smith, Cheryl L. Clarke, Akasha Gloria Hull, and other female activists tied to the Civil Rights Movement, Black Nationalism or the Black Panther Party established, as an offshoot of the National Black Feminist Organization, the Combahee River Collective, a radical lesbian feminist group. Their founding text referred to important female figures of the abolitionist movement, such as Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frances E. W. Harper, Ida B. Welles Barnett and Mary Church Terrell, president of the National Association of Colored Women founded in 1896. The Combahee River Collective opposed the practice of lesbian separatism

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