Living for the Revolution: Black Feminist Organizations, 1968–1980

Duke University Press
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The first in-depth analysis of the black feminist movement, Living for the Revolution fills in a crucial but overlooked chapter in African American, women’s, and social movement history. Through original oral history interviews with key activists and analysis of previously unexamined organizational records, Kimberly Springer traces the emergence, life, and decline of several black feminist organizations: the Third World Women’s Alliance, Black Women Organized for Action, the National Black Feminist Organization, the National Alliance of Black Feminists, and the Combahee River Collective. The first of these to form was founded in 1968; all five were defunct by 1980. Springer demonstrates that these organizations led the way in articulating an activist vision formed by the intersections of race, gender, class, and sexuality.

The organizations that Springer examines were the first to explicitly use feminist theory to further the work of previous black women’s organizations. As she describes, they emerged in response to marginalization in the civil rights and women’s movements, stereotyping in popular culture, and misrepresentation in public policy. Springer compares the organizations’ ideologies, goals, activities, memberships, leadership styles, finances, and communication strategies. Reflecting on the conflicts, lack of resources, and burnout that led to the demise of these groups, she considers the future of black feminist organizing, particularly at the national level. Living for the Revolution is an essential reference: it provides the history of a movement that influenced black feminist theory and civil rights activism for decades to come.

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About the author

Kimberly Springer is a lecturer in American Studies at Kings College, University of London. She is the editor of Still Lifting, Still Climbing: African American Women’s Contemporary Activism.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Apr 7, 2005
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Pages
240
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ISBN
9780822386858
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Ethnic Studies / African American Studies
Social Science / Feminism & Feminist Theory
Social Science / Women's Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Inspired by the idealism of the civil rights movement, the women who launched the radical second wave of the feminist movement believed, as a bedrock principle, in universal sisterhood and color-blind democracy. Their hopes, however, were soon dashed. To this day, the failure to create an integrated movement remains a sensitive and contested issue. In The Trouble Between Us, Winifred Breines explores why a racially integrated women's liberation movement did not develop in the United States. Drawing on flyers, letters, newspapers, journals, institutional records, and oral histories, Breines dissects how white and black women's participation in the movements of the 1960s led to the development of separate feminisms. Herself a participant in these events, Breines attempts to reconcile the explicit professions of anti-racism by white feminists with the accusations of mistreatment, ignorance, and neglect by African American feminists. Many radical white women, unable to see beyond their own experiences and idealism, often behaved in unconsciously or abstractly racist ways, despite their passionately anti-racist stance and hard work to develop an interracial movement. As Breines argues, however, white feminists' racism is not the only reason for the absence of an interracial feminist movement. Segregation, black women's interest in the Black Power movement, class differences, and the development of identity politics with an emphasis on "difference" were all powerful factors that divided white and black women. By the late 1970s and early 1980s white feminists began to understand black feminism's call to include race and class in gender analyses, and black feminists began to give white feminists some credit for their political work. Despite early setbacks, white and black radical feminists eventually developed cross-racial feminist political projects. Their struggle to bridge the racial divide provides a model for all Americans in a multiracial society.
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