What Would They Think of Us?
New Generations of Black Feminists
The 19th-century black feminist movement had its roots in the abolitionist movement; it was, in fact, at a global abolitionists’ meeting that the Seneca Falls organizers got their idea for a convention. Still, despite their efforts, the central question of 19th century feminism was whether it was acceptable to promote black civil rights over women’s rights.
The 1980s were a depressing period for the American feminist movement. The Equal Rights Amendment was dead. The conservative and hyper masculine rhetoric of the Reagan years dominated national discourse. The Supreme Court began to drift incrementally to the right on important women’s rights issues. And an aging generation of predominantly white, upper-class activists largely failed to address issues impacting women of color, low-income women, and women living outside of the United States.
In 1993, feminist author Rebecca Walker–herself young, Southern, African-American, Jewish, and bisexual–coined the term “third-wave feminism” to describe a new generation of young feminists working to create a more inclusive and comprehensive movement.
It is 2012. What are the issues of the day at the forefront of black feminism? From many of our readings we see that oppression, sexism and racism are still very much prevalent. Writers speak of a ‘new racism’ that plagues us. Mass media has not represented blacks in a good light. Upon reflecting what I learned this semester about the wonderful contributions of the “original change agents”, I pondered, What would the 19th century black women think of us? Would love to know what you think.