Black feminist theory, developed within and outside the academy, addresses the ways race, gender, class, and other social, cultural, and political markers are interconnected, focusing especially on the ways Black communities throughout the African Diaspora are particularly oppressed systemically and systematically. Along these lines, the term intersectionality was introduced when Kimberlé Crenshaw published “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics” in The University of Chicago Legal Forum in 1989. Here, Crenshaw examines “a problematic consequence of the tendency to treat race and gender as mutually exclusive categories of experience and analysis [which was and still is] dominant in antidiscrimination policy and that is also reflected in feminist theory and antiracist politics.” Relying primarily on this guiding principle, then, we study Black feminist examinations of Black women’s relationships with Black men, motherhood, Black queer communities, work inside and outside of the home, religion and spirituality, and other concerns.
By the end of the course, students learn the importance of the following objectives, as well as the skills required to perform them at an advanced level:
- examining, synthesizing, and responding to Black feminist theory developed within and outside the academy;
- examining, synthesizing, and responding to Black feminist theories that seriously consider what has now come to be known as intersectionality;
- examining and responding to Black feminist examinations of Black women’s relationships with Black men, motherhood, Black queer communities, work inside and outside of the home, religion and spirituality, and other concerns;
- and conversing with Black feminist theory in all coursework.
Black Feminist Road Trip Project and Index
For their final projects (starting in Block 8 2017), students will contribute to my Black Feminist Road Trip Project. In 1851, Sojourner Truth delivered her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech at a women’s convention in Akron, OH. In 1863, Harriet Tubman planned an action at the Combahee River in South Carolina that freed over 750 slaves. In 1967, Assata Shakur and approximately 100 students were arrested at the Borough of Manhattan Community College for protesting the lack of Black Studies and Black faculty. From 1986-1995, Toni Cade Bambara taught documentary planning and script writing workshops at Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia. In 1991, June Jordan founded the Poetry for the People Program at the University of California at Berkeley. Starting this block, I will be developing a virtual road trip project that allows internet users worldwide to learn why these and other spaces matter through a Black feminist lens. Additionally, users will eventually be able to plot trips to various spaces for specified amounts of time—for instance, if a user has only one weekend and is confined to no more than 100 miles outside of Cleveland, OH, they will be able to find out which spaces are available and how long it will take to make the trip(s) they select. My students will contribute to this project by creating a 10 to 15-minute aesthetically-intriguing video essays in small teams that communicate the significance of one space of their choice.
Even though student contributions will be published continuously, I likely won’t unveil the map for 3-5 years so that there are enough spaces for our audiences to visit virtually and in-person. In the meantime, I’ll update the space index below when each contribution is completed even after the road trip map is created and published:
- Melvina’s Beauty Shop in the Five Points Neighborhood in Denver, CO
- Audre Lorde‘s “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism” Speech at the 1981 National Women’s Studies Association Annual Conference in Storrs, CT
- Angela Y. Davis, George Jackson, and Soledad Prison
- Gladys Bentley & The Clam House