The Beginnings of Black Feminism
Black feminism argues that sexism, class oppression, and racism are inextricably bound together. The way these relate to each other is called intersectionality. Forms of feminism that strive to overcome sexism and class oppression but ignore race can discriminate against many people, including women, through racial bias.
The Combahee River Collective argued in 1974 that the liberation of black women entails freedom for all people, since it would require the end of racism, sexism, and class oppression.
One of the theories that evolved out of the Black feminist movement was Alice Walker’s Womanism. Alice Walker and other womanists pointed out that black woman experienced a different and more intense kind of oppression from that of white women. They point to the emergence black feminism after earlier movements led by white middle-class women which they regard as having largely ignored oppression based on race and class. Patricia Hill Collins defined Black feminism, in Black Feminist Thought (1991), as including “women who theorize the experiences and ideas shared by ordinary black women that provide a unique angle of vision on self, community, and society”.
There is a long-standing and important alliance between postcolonial feminists, which overlaps with transnational feminism and third-world feminism, and black feminists. Both have struggled for recognition, not only from men in their own culture, but also from Western feminists. Black Feminism in America began with Delta Sigma Theta participation in the Women’s Suffrage March where they were the only black organization to take part in the Suffrage march. Black feminist theory has argued that black women are positioned within structures of power in fundamentally different ways than white women. Black feminist organizations emerged during the 1970s and face many difficulties from both the white feminist and also from the Black Nationalist political organizations they were confronting. These women fought against suppression from the larger movements in which many of its members came from.
Black feminist organizations had to overcome three different challenges that no other feminist organization had to face. The first challenge these women faced was to “prove to other black women that feminism was not only for white women.” They also had to demand that white women “share power with them and affirm diversity” and “fight the misogynist tendencies of Black Nationalism”. With all the challenges these women had to face many activists referred to black feminists as “war weary warriors”.