One of the reasons for the persistent misreading of contemporary digital feminist activism, such as this unfortunate piece on the supposedly “toxic” atmosphere on Twitter for some feminists, is a lack of reading, understanding and deep intellectual engagement with black feminist thought by the vast majority of white women and most white feminists. By ‘deep intellectual engagement,’ I mean going beyond pulling a selective Audre Lorde quote out every once in awhile, like ‘caring for myself is not self-indulgence…it is an act of political warfare ‘ to justify a spa day. (Afrofeminist Nigerian journalist SpectraSpeaks has a wonderful piece of writing here about the distinction between self-care as revolutionary or individualistic.)
And, to perhaps state the obvious, the (mostly) white-male-tech elite which is ascendant in building and theorizing the web has very little interest in engaging with feminist perspectives on technology, and black feminist perspectives are nonexistent in this realm. So, as something of a corrective, I offer these resources.
Back in November, 2013 PoliticoMagazine featured a cover story by Michelle Cottle, titled “Leaning Out: How Michelle Obama Became a Feminist Nightmare.” In response to this piece, Melissa Harris-Perry, the public intellectual tour de force, responded with a smackdown to Cottle in her regular ‘open letter’ segment and offered a ‘syllabus’ of suggested reading in black feminist thought for Cottle and the other white feminists she represents. Yesha Callahan at Clutch Magazine was good enough to pull all those books out, list the author, full title and links for easy, scrolling and clicking access to Professor Harris-Perry’s syllabus:
- Brown, Nikki. Private Politics and Public Voices: Black Women’s Activism from World War I to the New Deal.
- Collier-Thomas, Bettye, and V. P. Franklin, eds. Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement.
- Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment.
- Cooper, Anna Julia. A Voice From the South.
- Crenshaw, Kimberle. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review 43, no. 6 (July 1991): 1241-1299.
- Davis, Angela. Women, Race, & Class.
- Giddings, Paula. Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells.
- Giddings, Paula. When And Where I Enter The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America.
- Guy-Shefthall, Beverly. Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought.
- Harris-Perry, Melissa. Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America.
- hooks, bell. Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism.
- hooks, bell. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center.
- Hunter, Tera. To ‘Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors After the Civil War.
- James, Stanlie M., Frances Smith Foster, and Beverly Guy-Sheftall, eds. Still Brave: The Evolution of Black Women’s Studies.
- Jordan, June. Some of Us Did Not Die.
- Lorde, Audre. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches.
- Lorde, Audre. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name.
- Marby, Marcus. Twice As Good: Condoleezza Rice and Her Path to Power.
- Morgan, Joan. When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks it Down.
- Ransby, Barbara. Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision.
- Richie, Beth. Compelled to Crime: The Gender Entrapment of Battered Black Women.
- Shange, Ntozke. For colored girls who have considered suicide/When the rainbow is enuf.
- Shakur, Assata. Assata: An Autobiography.
- Smith, Susan L. Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired: Black Women’s Health Activism in America, 1890-1950.
- Theoharis, Jeanne. The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.
And, if you’d like a video supplement to your learning experience, I remind you of this wonderfully engaging dialogue between Melissa Harris-Perry and bell hooks, which took place at The New School, November 8, 2013 (1:36):
What do you think? How has black feminist thought shaped your work, your activism, your scholarship? Are you new to these ideas? Intimidated about jumping in?