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Feminism, Race and Racism

Questions to ponder whilst you read…

  • Was the WLM a white movement?
  • Why did some Black women activists reject the label ‘feminist’?
  • What parallels/ differences can you identify between these debates and those which took place in the nineteenth-century?
  • Contrast the experiences of Black women in the Women’s Liberation Movement in the UK and US.

Preparatory Activity

Do a short biography of someone active in the black British feminist movement in the 1970s/1980s OR a summary of a key organisation. A great source for this is the Feminist Review for Autumn 1984 ( opens in a new window) The whole issue is important - but there is a photo essay on pp 90-95 which has some useful images of key people and organisations.

Core Reading

Valerie Amos & Pratibha Parmar, ‘Challenging Imperial Feminism’, Feminist Review 17 (Autumn 1984), 3-21

Natalie Thomlinson, 'The Colour of Feminism: White feminists and race in the Women's Liberation Movement' History 97:327, pp.453 - 475. ALL

Seminar Reading

M.T. Bogle, ‘Brixton Black Women’s Centre: Organising on Child Sexual Abuse’, Feminist Review 28 (1988), 132-135

Remembering Olive Collective, <em>Do You Remember Olive Morris?</em> [Charlie]

H. Safia Mirza, ‘Introduction: Mapping a Genealogy of Black British Feminism’, in H. Safia Mirza, Black British Feminism (1997), pp.1-28 [a very useful overview] digitised [Ateeqa]

Bryan, S. Dadzie, S. Scafe, The Heart of the Race: Black Women’s Lives in Britain (London: 1985) (also see Sophia Siddiqui, Still The Heart of Race Thirty Years On) [Megan]

bell hooks, Ain’t I a Woman? (1982) [esp. chapters 4 and 5. A US perspective but highly influential in the UK] [Tamyla]

P. Hill Collins, ‘What’s in a Name? Womanism, Black Feminism and Beyond’, The Black Scholar 26:1 (1996), 9-17[A US perspective but highly influential in the UK] [Harprit]

Phyllis Marynick Palmer, 'White women and black women: the dualism of female identity and experience in the US', Feminist Studies, 1 (1983), 151-170 [Emily]

Further Reading

Julia Sudbury, 'Other Kinds of Dreams': Black Women's Organisations and the Politics of Transformation (1998)

S. Grewal et al., Charting the Journey: Writings by Black and Third World Women (1988)

Natalie Thomlinson, Race, Ethnicity and the Women's Movement in England 1968-1993 (2016)

‘Black Women Organising Autonomously’, Feminist Review 17 (Autumn 1984), 83-100, Special Issue ‘Many Voices One Chant: Black Feminist Perspectives’ [Have a look at the whole of this volume as there is a lot of interesting stuff.]

Carmen, Gail, Sheila and Pratibha, ‘Becoming Visible: Black Lesbian Discussions’, Feminist Review 17 (Autumn 1984), 53-74

Valerie Mason-John and Ann Khambatta, Lesbians Talk: Making Black Waves (1993)

‘Black Women Together: The Need for a United and Autonomous National Black Women’s Organisation’, Spare Rib: A Women’s Liberation Magazine 87 (1979), 42-45 (See also Roisin Boyd, Race, place and class: who is speaking for who)

‘Black Women Fighting Back’, Spare Rib: A Women’s Liberation Magazine 95 (1980), 49 (See also Roisin Boyd, Race, place and class: who is speaking for who)

E.B. Freedman, ‘Race and the Politics of Identity in US Feminism’, in V.L. Ruiz & E.C. Dubois, Unequal Sisters: An Inclusive Reader in US Women’s History, pp.1-14

Or in No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women (2002)

Amrit Wilson, ‘Finding a Voice: Asian Women in Britain’, in H. Safia Mirza, Black British Feminism (1997), 31-36 and Amrit Wilson, 'A Burning Fever: the isolation of Asian women', Race and Class, 9 (1978), 129-143

A. Brah, ‘Difference, Diversity, Differentiation’, in L. Back & J. Solomos (eds.), Theories of Race and Racism: A Reader (2000)