Black women and the feminist movement


Black women faced exclusion from inside and outside their respective groups as African Americans and females. The white feminist movement was inclined towards the experiences of white women, and it therefore perpetuated racism against African American females. Furthermore, black liberation movements focused on male struggles, and this sidelined their female counterparts. As a result, black women felt that they did not belong anywhere; it was such sentiments that perpetuated the creation of black feminist thought.

1. Research question

This study will look into black women’s situation during the early to mid 20th century in order to understand why this group felt like it did not belong to ongoing feminist movements. In other words, the main research question is “How did black women’s situation in 20th century society explain their exclusion from ongoing feminist movements?”

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This study will contribute to knowledge by providing insights about the situation of women in 20th C America. It will analyse the cultural, economic, sexual, academic, familial and political positions or situations of black women at the time in order to reveal why these women felt rejected by ongoing feminist movements.

The types of questions that will be examined in the research include: “Did family situations cause excessive pressures on African American women?” “Did African American women face disproportionate sexual violence or harrrassment?”, “Were economic structures highly unfavourable to black women?” and “Did these women encounter undue oppression from African American males?”.

The focus of this paper will be on case studies of women in the years prior to the birth of black feminism. It will dissect the challenges that these individuals underwent in their respective roles as mothers, labourers, employees, businesspersons, wives, civic leaders, victims and many more.

The research will attempt to show how their plight differed substantially from the struggles of non-black women at that time (Frances 201). This study will therefore justify the birth of black feminism by illustrating that there were real differences between subjects in black feminism and in other feminist ideologies.

2. Theoretical approach and method

In the paper, the theoretical supposition will be that African American women faced distinctive oppression that had not been addressed by any of the other movements in existence. Consequently, these circumstances excluded them from conventional feminist movements. The purpose of this paper will be to reveal those circumstances. It will therefore, be analytical and explanatory.

This research will be founded on the case study research design. Since the main research question starts with “how”, then the best research method to use in such a scenario is case study analysis.

The research will be carried out through the use of multiple case studies because this can triangulate the various findings (Brearley 50). The different sources will be used to build a case on the possible explanations involved. Such an approach will make this study unique because most analyses on the subject of black feminism tend to dwell on time-series analysis.

They usually depend on historical occurrences in order to support their assertions. However, this paper will focus on specific lives and narratives of African American women in the 20th Century before the birth of black feminism. The reference point or the period that is referred to in the birth of black feminism is 1973. It was during the 1970s when black women realised that they did not fit into feminist movements as well black national movements.

Therefore, this study will contribute towards an authentic explanation of the situations that perpetuated black feminism. It will look at real-life experiences of black women in 20th Century America and thus provide insights concerning this issue. One should note that black feminism was a complex phenomenon. There were many variables that intersected to lead to its formation. One must thus rely on several sources of data in order to unravel the problem.

The research method will be very systematic. The first step is defining the study questions. The latter aspect has already been done in the previous section of the research proposal. It will then point out the theoretical propositions involved in the research. The latter will be highly useful because they will allow limitation of all the data in subsequent portions of the paper.

It will also facilitate the narrowing of the research to the most valuable issues. Narratives about different women’s lives in the 20th century show that they encountered a series of challenges. Some of them were exclusive to their personal experiences; however, others were reflective of their identity as African American women.

It is the latter aspect that will be the centre of attention in this paper. Furthermore, the theoretical propositions and assumptions will facilitate linkage between certain incidents in the subjects’ lives. Without a theoretical framework, one might end up with endless data on the encounters of all the African American women in history. The framework will provide a specific direction for the entire research.

After establishing the theoretical propositions, the paper will focus on the analysis of units in order to compare them to the propositions made as well as contrasting patterns. Finally, the research will involve an interpretation of the results. This will involve iterating the data and the theoretical propositions made.

The paper will require narratives or cases about African American female experiences. These cases will focus on the different areas of concern identified in the paper. Some of them may be economically inclined; others may dwell on experiences of sexual violence or predicaments in academic settings.

Some cases may contain an amalgamation of these issues. No matter what their authors focus on, all cases need to be personal narratives about African American women in the 20th century. This ought to be during the period before the formation of black feminist movements.

The data will be collected from two major sources; archival records and general documents. The Archives will come from newspaper articles, journals and magazines that report personal accounts of African American women in that era. For instance in 1912, the challenges of domestic servant hood were highlighted by an African American worker whose identity remains unknown.

She talked about her experiences with oppression in the ‘Independent’. Such sources will be insightful in answering the main research questions. The general documents will include diary entries, letters, and autobiographies. The diary entries will be written by women who lived in the 20th century prior to the formation of black feminist liberation movements.

Furthermore personal letters that can be found in public arenas concerning these women’s challenges will be an important part of the database. Lastly autobiographical books will be vital data collection points. This is because most of them cover a myriad of issues about their subjects’ lives. It will be possible to get a multi-dimensional perspective about these women’s plights.

After collecting all the data from the subjects under consideration, an analysis will be done through iterations between each finding and the earlier propositions made during the paper. In other words, the research will entail matching of patterns so as to associate all the pieces of information found to the theoretical framework made out earlier in the paper.

3. Literature review

A number of papers and books focus on the historical occurrences just prior to black feminism. Some papers report that most black women were confronted with two paths; they could either educate members of the prevailing feminist movements about their unique situations and challenges as black women, or they could curve out their own path by starting black feminism (Atlink 99).

White women were unwilling to accept that racist values pervaded feminist movements. This partly stemmed from focusing on male patriarchy as the main problem for feminists. Furthermore, a number of them were in denial about their ability to oppress (McCauley 29). They believed that if one was oppressed, then it was not possible for the same person to oppress others.

Black women felt frustrated by this scheme of things (Hine 19). If they chose to simply educate existing feminists about their plight, then they would be taking on an unnecessary responsibility. Many oppressors have used this method as a strategy to divert attention from the real problem (Crenshaw 15). A victim should never be expected to educate her oppressor. This would deflect her focus away from her own challenges, which should be the object of concern in the first place.

Consequently, research illustrates that black women chose to curve their own paths rather than work with pre-existing models. These historical recordings of black feminism are useful in revealing the uniqueness of black feminist thought. However, it only focuses on the political aspect; it does not look at other facets of Black’s women’s lives that might have contributed to this exclusion. This research will attempt to cover that gap by analysing those other areas.

Some studies on female African American feminists often focus on one dimension of this group’s struggles. For instance, a study carried out by Schultz (80) wanted to find out how African American women’s history affects society’s responses to sexual abuse or rape. This analysis therefore, dwelt on the sexual issues of black women in the 20th century; similar studies include Collins (44) and Fogg-Davis (55). Another report focused on the economic challenges of African American women in that era.

Challenges of female field and domestic workers in the South were highlighted. Later on, when black women could participate actively in professional jobs, they still faced additional difficulties in securing jobs or keeping their jobs (Jones 50). Other writers focus on certain realms of black women’s lives such as academics (Perry 15).

This author reveals that African American women needed to do much more than their male counterparts in order to maintain their positions. This paper highlighted he work experiences of the group under discussion. Guy-Sheftall (194) in his book reveals that black women have unique circumstances that they encounter in their families. He cites statistics on how the US contained a higher proportion of single mothers among black families than white families in the 1960s.

African American women faced greater pressure at home than their female counterparts (Loury 22). While these analyses tend to focus on one dimension, it is necessary to bring out a more holistic picture of the black female’s struggle before the formation of black feminisms. This research will attempt to provide that picture through multiple case studies.

4. Plan of the study

The dissertation will commence with some preliminary readings on the subject matter. This will entail looking and analysing most of the books and writings on black feminism. Such a process should take a period of one month.

The purpose of carrying out this task will be to identify some of the best sources to use for the paper. Arrangements with the project supervisor concerning regular meetings will follow; this should take roughly one week. The third step in the dissertation writing process will be to allocate specific time frames for the completion of every aspect of the research dissertation.

The time frames will depend upon when the supervisor agrees with these deadlines. Having such a plan will play an important role in ascertaining that everything remains on track. At this time, substantial portions of time will be left prior to the deadlines in order to prevent the possible loss of time after editing and other last minute changes. Furthermore, a plan of the desired words to be found on each of these chapters is also another necessary aspect of the research paper.

After the planning stage, the dissertation process will entail a detailed outline of the methodological approach in the paper. This stage will also involve completion of the initial reading done earlier. The latter step will occur two weeks after the dissertation planning phase. After doing the second reading and review, a detailed plan of the bibliographic aspects of the research will be done. This will ensure that all the work is founded on strong theoretical principles.

After carrying out these steps, compilation of the literate review will be done. This will take a period of one month. The paper will start with the topics to be covered in the literature review and then follow this up with the complete compilation of all the literature involved in the study topic.

After one month, the next step will be an analysis of the research methods to be used in the paper. This will involve an outline and explanation of the research instruments in the first two weeks. In the next two weeks, the research process will entail a definition of the methods of analysis chosen for the paper.

In the coming three weeks, this study will focus on identification of the case studies since a multiple case study approach will be the main point of emphasis in the research. The sources of these case studies will be as described above; personal diaries, letters, autobiographies and first-person articles in newspapers, journals or other relevant literature.

Only the cases that talk about the African American female experience prior to formation of black feminism will be the main concern. This will begin in the 1900s and end in 1973. After identifying the sources, the next step will be redefining the research method in the dissertation. This will take a duration of one week. Shortly after that, the theoretical framework for collection of data will commence (Yin 13).

This will refer to some of the issues that pertain to this particular kind of analysis. Collection of the case studies will take a period of two months. Shortly after, pattern matching will follow; this will take a period of two months. The findings in each of the case studies will be related back to the theoretical frameworks done just before this step. After two months of pattern matching, an analysis of the findings will be done.

The patterns will be linked to the research questions in order to establish a correlation between the two facets; this process will take approximately two weeks. Afterwards, a discussion of the research results will be done in order to form a complete picture of the issue of black women’s situation prior to the formation of black feminism. The latter step will take place within a period of two weeks.

The conclusion and recommendations will be the last step in the preparation of the dissertation report, and this will be done within two weeks as well. A compilation of the references used in the report and the final editing will proceed after that. This will take a period of three days. Thereafter, the dissertation will be submitted.

Works Cited

Atlink, Henrice. “The misfortune of being black and female.” Third Space 5.1(2006): 99-113. Print.

Brearley, David. “The case study: threat or opportunity.” Counsellor education and supervision 33(1993): 35-57. Print.

Collins, Patricia. Black sexual politics: African Americans, gender and the new racism. NY: Routledge, 2004. Print.

Crenshaw, Kimberle. Beyond racism and misogyny: Black feminism and 2 Live Crew. 2005. Web. 6 Mar. 2012 ‹›

Fogg-Davis, Hawley. A black feminist critique of same race street harassment. 2005. Web. 6 Mar. 2012 ‹›

Frances, White. Listening to the voices of black feminism. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1989. Print.

Guy-Sheftall, Beverly. Words of Fire: An anthology of African American Feminist Thought. NY: New Press, 1995. Print.

Hine, Darlene. Black women in America. NY: OUP, 2005. Print.

Jones, Jacqueline. Labour of love, labour of sorrow: black women, work and the family from slavery to the present. NY: Vintage books, 1995. Print.

Loury, Glenn. One by one from the inside out: essays and reviews on race and responsibility in America. NY: the free press, 1995. Print.

McCauley, Robbie. But some of us are brave: a history of black feminism in the United States. 2004. Web. 6 Mar. 2012. ‹›

Perry, Gary. The unique challenges and experiences of African American women academicians at predominantly white institutes. 2001. Web. 6 Mar. 2012 ‹›

Schultz, Priscilla. “The sociocultural context of African Americans and White American Women’s rape.” Social studies journal 48.1(1992): 77-91

Yin, Robert. Case study research: design and methods. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, Print.