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Black Internationalist Feminism

Women Writers of the Black Left, 1945-1995

Cheryl Higashida

Publication Year: 2011

Black Internationalist Feminism examines how African American women writers affiliated themselves with the post-World War II Black Communist Left and developed a distinct strand of feminism. This vital yet largely overlooked feminist tradition built upon and critically retheorized the postwar Left's "nationalist internationalism," which connected the liberation of Blacks in the United States to the liberation of Third World nations and the worldwide proletariat. Black internationalist feminism critiques racist, heteronormative, and masculinist articulations of nationalism while maintaining the importance of national liberation movements for achieving Black women's social, political, and economic rights._x000B__x000B_Cheryl Higashida shows how Claudia Jones, Lorraine Hansberry, Alice Childress, Rosa Guy, Audre Lorde, and Maya Angelou worked within and against established literary forms to demonstrate that nationalist internationalism was linked to struggles against heterosexism and patriarchy. Exploring a diverse range of plays, novels, essays, poetry, and reportage, Higashida illustrates how literature is a crucial lens for studying Black internationalist feminism because these authors were at the forefront of bringing the perspectives and problems of black women to light against their marginalization and silencing._x000B__x000B_In examining writing by Black Left women from 1945 to 1995, Black Internationalist Feminism contributes to recent efforts to rehistoricize the Old Left, Civil Rights, Black Power, and second-wave Black women's movements.

Published by: University of Illinois Press


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pp. 1-3

Title page

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pp. 4-4


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pp. 5-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

At Cornell, Biodun Jeyifo, Hortense Spillers, Sunn Shelley Wong, and Barry Maxwell were rigorous and caring advisors who nurtured my interest in radical writers. Gary Okihiro and Eric Cheyfitz imparted invaluable advice. The Graduate Student Radical Caucus and our Report on the State of the English Department brought left critique to life for me. ...

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Introduction. Black Internationalist Feminism: A Definition

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pp. 1-30

In 1971, an unlikely trip took place. An African American delegation to the Soviet Union followed in the steps of Harry Haywood, Claude McKay, Maude White Katz, W. E. B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Louise Thompson Patterson, Dorothy West, Paul Robeson, Claudia Jones, and numerous other Black radicals ...

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1. The Negro Question, the Woman Question, and the "Vital Link": Histories and Institutions

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pp. 31-56

Feminism, Marxism, and Black nationalism have had contentious relationships with each other, to say the least. How is it, then, that the Communist Party’s theory and tactics of African American nationhood gave rise to the Black internationalist feminist tradition that came into its own in the post–World War II era? ...

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2. Lorraine Hansberry's Existentialist Routes to Black Internationalist Feminism

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pp. 57-81

Soon after arriving in Harlem, Lorraine Hansberry began writing for Paul Robeson’s anti-imperialist and anticapitalist newspaper Freedom. With o ffices in the same building as the Council on African A ffairs, the most visible anticolonial organization in the first years after World War II, Freedom put Hansberry in the midst of a vibrant Black Left network ...

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3. Rosalind on the Black Star Line: Alice Childress, Black Minstrelsy, and Garveyite Drag

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pp. 82-111

In 1951, as Alice Childress was securing her reputation within the Left as one of the foremost playwrights and promoters of Black drama, she published an essay, “For a Negro  THeatre,” in the left-wing journal Masses and Mainstream and in the Communist Party’s newspaper The Daily Worker (where it was more radically titled, “For a Strong Negro People’s Theatre”). ...

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4. Rosa Guy, Haiti, and the Hemispheric Woman

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pp. 112-133

To frame the Black feminist intervention of Rosa Guy’s The Sun, the Sea, a Touch of the Wind (1995), I want to discuss a contemporaneous novel that shares with Guy’s the theme of African American female rejuvenation and empowerment through Caribbean romance—Terry McMillan’s bestseller and pop culture phenomenon, How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1996). ...

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5. Audre Lorde Revisited: Nationalism and Second-Wave Black Feminism

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pp. 134-157

I would guess that many readers familiar with Lorde would contrast her feminist diasporic politics of di fference with Fanon’s anticolonial nationalism. Indeed, they might position Lorde with those who believe that “humanity . . . has got past the stage of nationalist claims.”  is latter assumption drives much Black and Third World feminist scholarship, ...

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6. Reading Maya Angelou, Reading Black Internationalist Feminism Today

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pp. 158-176

In reflecting on the relevance of African American women writers of the postwar anticolonial Left today, it is useful to look closely at the work of Maya Angelou. Not only has she attained the most mainstream visibility and commercial success of all the women a ffiliated with the African American Left, ...


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pp. 177-222


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pp. 223-242


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pp. 243-250

back cover

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pp. 266-266

E-ISBN-13: 9780252093548
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036507

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 827454873
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Black Internationalist Feminism

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Subject Headings

  • American literature -- African American authors -- History and criticism.
  • American literature -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
  • Feminism and literature -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Women radicals -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • African American women -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
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