As a political practice Black Power feminism bridges black feminist thought and black power politics simultaneously. As a theory it embraces the central tenants of the Black Power movement including self-definition, political participation, and self defense while also prioritizing gender justice.
Black Power feminism situates race and gender as equal parts in eradicating various forms of oppression. Historically hypermasculinity dominated the discourse of Black Power in which case women’s concerns were often marginalized. By the 1970s, women constituted 70% of the Black Panther Party’s membership; the FBI had deemed the organization dangerous and through its counterintelligence programs had incarcerated much of its male and female leadership. The remaining female majority challenges the black revolutionary ideal as decidedly male, and they developed important community organizing for food, housing, and healthcare in black communities throughout the United States.
Inclusive of women’s rights Black Power feminism calls for a sense of urgency in disrupting patriarchy and male chauvinism while maintaining a strong sense of racial pride. Black Power feminists organized consciousness-raising groups, or political education programs, that were designed to diminish gender bias in black communities.
Their work reveals women’s leadership as a crucial part of Black Power politics. Throughout history many black women including Shirley Chisholm, Florynce “Flo” Kennedy, and Ericka Huggins practiced the politics of Black Power feminism by intersecting the concepts of Black Power and feminism in their activism. These women demanded the inclusion of women’s issues within context of Black Power. Emerging as key leaders in major organizations they challenged sex discrimination and misogyny through various forms of resistance by utilizing politics, law, and the pen as weapons for justice.
Beverly Guy-Shefthall, ed. Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought, New York: The New Press, 1995.
Michele Wallace, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman (1999).
Stephen Ward, “The Third World Women’s Alliance,” In The Black Power Movement: Rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power Era, ed. Peniel Joseph, pp. 119-144. New York: Routledge, 2006.