African American Studies 2210
April 26, 2017
Your Week 13 Discussion Board specifically flagged the issue of gender in the Black Freedom struggle for the first time. Yet, as we already know from the readings, the voices of Black Women have resounded from the very early days of the struggle. How have Black Women activists themselves conceptualized or visualized their particular situation and their role in the struggle? Answer by reviewing the ideas of the following: A. J. Cooper, Mary Church Terrell, Anne Dunbar-Nelson, Amy Jacques Garvey, Claudia Jones, the Combahee River Collective and Angela Davis. How should each of these activists be classified: as integrationist, Black Nationalist, or Transformationalist?
Although black women played a hugerole in the Black Power Struggle, they rarely received recognition fortheir dedicated participation. From the movement’s inception, black women were at the forefront, organizing communities, church congregations, and Civil Rights organizations.However, despite such committed involvement to improving the conditions of black Americans, black female movement participants encountered sexist treatment from their black male counterparts and mainstream society. All of the women that were involved in the Black FreedomStrugglewas motivated by accepting values ofintegrationalism, transformationalism,and/or Black Nationalism. Even thoughblack women encountered sexism within organizations prior to 1966, the sexism was not as blatant and combative as it was during the Black FreedomMovement.
Mary Church Terrell, whose ideologies leaned more tointegrationalism, was one of the most profound activists leading up to the Black Freedom Struggle. Herscholarly articles, poems, and
short stories about race and gender appeared in numerous journals and magazines. Terrell began her professional career asa writer, educator, and activist, co-founded the National Association of Colored Women and served as the organization’s first president. Terrell joined the passionateefforts to end legal segregation in Washington, D.C.In 1940 she wrote her autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World, which details her own battles with gender and race discrimination in the United States. In 1909,she was made a charter member of the NAACP. Within the NAACP, she could not escape sexism, therefore,Terrell confronted Washington’s then current racial issues and it became her greatest achievement.
AnnDunbar-Nelson addressed the issues that confronted African-Americans and women of her time. She served asfield organizer for the Woman’s Suffrage Movementand for the Women’s Committee of the Council of Defense. Dunbar-Nelson was a teacher, activist, and journalist who was active in the women’s suffrage and anti-lynching movements. During the last two decades of her life, her efforts were directed towards the political issues surrounding African Americans. Her one-act play “Mine Eyes Have Seen” was published in the Crisis, a NAACP journal edited by W.E.B. DuBois. It raised questions about the duties of Black Americans that served ina war waged by a country that had not given them any justice. Ann Dunbar-Nelson utilized theories of transformationalism through her may works that developed from her abilities to use her Creole linguistics to get her points across.
While she continued the struggle for Black Nationalism and African Independence, Amy Jacques Garveydoubled as a pioneer for Pan-African emancipation. Becoming the wife of the late, great Marcus Garvey in 1922, she gained notoriety by aiding him in writing his countless articles and publications. Garvey, within her own right, later published her ownbook, Garvey and
Garveyismand later published two collections of essays, Black Power in America and The Impact of Garvey in Africaand Jamaica. Herself and husband were advocates of rallying for blacks to gain their own central powers and have freedom to self-govern.Allalong she helped organizeand develop Garvey’s philosophy of African Consciousness, Self-help, and above all economic independence. She will be greatly remembered for her conscious efforts of heroic deeds and sacrifices.
Claudia Jones was a Communist for her entire adult life and a leader in several major movements. Although her formal education had terminated because she was forced to drop out of high school, her education did not stop there. She found a political education insocial activism that placed her in the international communist movement, the struggle for the rights of women. Jones made a consistent stand againstexploitation and oppression and retained the advocacy of world peace as well as socialism. One of her works that stood out most was her letter written to the legal defense of the Scottsboro boys who were facing execution for the rape of a white woman. Claudia Jones is viewed as a writer of intersectional thought. Her practices as an integrationist surfaced when she campaigned for equal access to basic services and lobbied against Britain’s racist Immigration Act of 1876.
The Combahee River Collectivearticulated the concept of multiple oppressions, critiquing both sexual oppression in the black community and racism within the wider feminist movement. The authors of such great workswereDemitaFrazier, Beverly Smith and Barbara Smith. Itis committed to fighting race, sex, and class oppression, anditalso recognized oppression based on sexuality. Although it was created by majority of lesbians, the statement spoke out for the Black Nationalism on behalf of sexism in the black community, apart from black men and white middle-
class women. They were critical of “essentialist” ideas about race, class, sex and sexuality. TheCombahee River Collective’s main concentration was ensuring that the Women’s Liberation Movement wasn’t putting prime focus on white middle-class women.
One of the most controversial and monumental womenof the Black Freedom Strugglewas Angela Davis. Her astounding membership as a Black Nationalist and Communist still impacts the lives of women today, even the lives of blacks as a whole. Davis was a very active member in forming the Black Panther Party which thrived on separating blacks from whites and earning their rights for equality and self-governing. She was also noted for her involvement in transformation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committeeto an all-blackorganization, andwas well-known for displayingsexism to the female members. Angela’s forthgoing efforts to promote Black Nationalism was recognized when she carried the Black Power Movement to Cuba. There, she was met by Fidel Castro and many residents with open arms and they were receptive of her views and what she fought for.
Anna Julia Haywood Cooperwas a high school student at St. Augustine’s in Raleigh, NC where the administration actively discouraged women from pursuing higher-level courses.Cooper fought for her right to take a course reserved for men, by demonstrating her scholastic ability. Sheexcelled andwas respectfully named the Godmother of Black Feminism. Throughout her career, she completed her book AVoice from the South: By a Woman from the South which was her only published work. It gave atransformationalistvision toself-determination through education and social uplift for African American women.She hashelped reframe the understanding of intersections of race and gender and their political, cultural and personal implications in pursuit of a better nation.