african american feminism

Scopes of Feminsim

As Defined by the book “Feminist Theories and Social Work: Approaches and Applications” by Christine Flynn Saulnier ©1996

Liberal Feminism- Argues that, based on gender, women are unfairly denied equal access to society’s resources.

Radical Feminism- argues that society is psychologically structured on male needs, that to maintain that order women’s needs are subjugated, and that the fabric of society must be fundamentally altered.

Lesbian Feminism- challenges the organization of society around both heterosexual and male dominance and the ongoing enforcement of that arrangement.

Cultural Feminism- holds that women are more peaceful, cooperative, and nurturing than men, probably because women reproduce and nurture species.

Ecofeminism- is the application of women’s culture to efforts toward peace and ecology.

Socialist Feminism- blames the economics of capitalism in combination with patriarchy for women’s subordinate position in society.

Womanism (African American Feminism) - defines sexism as one of multiple interlocking systems of oppression functioning simultaneously and interdependently, inextricable from each other theoretically or experientially.

Postmodern Feminism- argues that since woman is socially defined and inherently distorting term, which cannot be defended on empirical or theoretical grounds, we have no reason to think females have an inherent nature or role. Thus, social organization rooted i gender is based on an invented concept.

Global Feminism- seeks to explain the interconnectedness of disparate feminist struggles by examining how world-wide economic factors combine with national histories of colonialism, religion and culture to oppress women


Edmonia Lewis (1844-1907) was a sculptor working mostly in the Neoclassical style, who was the first woman of African-American and Native American heritage to gain international fame in this art. She emerged as a figure in American mainstream art during the Civil War, and was the only black female artist recognized to any degree on the artistic scene.

She studied at Oberlin College, one of the first institutions to admit women and people of different ethnicities. She went on to begin a career in sculpting in Boston, and opened her studio to the public for her first solo exhibition in 1864. She later moved to Rome, Italy, where she created most of the works for which she became internationally known (such as Death of Cleopatra, photo above).

Unita Blackwell (b. 1933) is the first African-American woman to be elected as mayor in the state of Mississippi. She is a civil rights activist who helped organize voters in the state.

She worked as a project director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, as well as a community development specialist with the National Council of Negro Women, working on projects for low-income housing. As mayor of Mayersville, she secured funds for infrastructure and accommodation across the city.


Amandla Stenberg is showing a generation of black kids how to shut down racist trolls 

While the racist reaction to her casting in The Hunger Games is perhaps what Amandla Stenberg is still most publicly associated with, in the mere three years since, she’s become a bold, outspoken, feminist role model. “That’s the least I can do, is try to start a conversation, try to get people thinking about a certain topic,” she told Mic.

We sat down with Stenberg to talk about her feminist awakening, using her celebrity for good and how her goal in life will help black girls everywhere.

Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) was an American educator, stateswoman, philanthropist, humanitarian and civil rights activist. She was a national advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was acknowledged by both President Calvin Coolidge and President Herbert Hoover for her knowledge on child welfare.

Mary’s parents were former slaves, but she was able to go to college with the help of benefactors.  After she was told that black missionaries were not needed, she started teaching, and set up a private school for African-American students in Daytona Beach (Florida) to promote education of African-Americans. Using donations she developed the school into a college and later into a university.

Madam C. J. Walker (1867-1919) is remembered today as one of the first and most successful female entrepreneurs, one of the wealthiest African American women of the century, and the first female self-made millionaire in the USA. Her fortune was the result of her highly popular business venture, the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, which sold beauty and hair products for black women.

She was the first in her family to be born free, after the Emancipation Proclamation. She began by selling hair care products door-to-door, and eventually opened a beauty parlour that grew into a steady, multi-million-dollar business. At its height, the company employed 20,000 women, and spread across the Americas. She became a patron of the arts and a philanthropist devoted to helping the black community around her.

Mary Ann Shadd (1823-1893) was the first black female publisher in the United States, and the first female publisher in Canada. She was a devoted abolitionist, and also a journalist, teacher, and lawyer.

Fleeing from the United States under the threat of recapture for former slaves, she settled in Ontario and founded a racially integrated school. She then travelled around Canada and USA promoting full racial integration and education. From 1853, she ran an anti-slavery newspaper called The Provincial Freeman, which made her the first female African-American newspaper editor in North America.



“Angela Davis is a political activist, academic scholar, and author. She emerged as a prominent counterculture activist and radical in the 1960s as a leader of the Communist Party USA, and had close relations with the Black Panther Party through her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.

Her research interests are feminism, African-American studies, critical theory, Marxism, popular music, social consciousness, and the philosophy and history of punishment and prisons.”

Toni Stone (1922-1966) was a famous baseball player during the 1950s, one of the first three women to play in the so-called Negro league. She began playing the game at the age of ten, and at fifteen she joined a men’s semipro team called the St. Paul Giants.

Her career officially began in 1949 when she joined the San Francisco Sea Lions. As the first female player in the Negro Leagues, she encountered great stigma and difficulty: most of her male colleagues shunned her, and she was never allowed to change in the locker room before games. She was inducted in the Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.