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Further To Fly

Black Women and the Politics of Empowerment

Sheila Radford-Hill

Publication Year: 2000

Amid the longest-running economic boom in American history and despite the emergence of a significant black middle class, the lot of low-income black people in general-and black women in particular-seems more troubling than ever. Their plight, Sheila Radford-Hill argues in this book, is directly related to the diminution of black women’s traditional power as culture bearers and community builders. A cogent critique of feminist theory and practice, Further to Fly identifies the failure of feminism to connect with the social realities it should seek to explain, in particular the decline of black women’s empowerment. Further to Fly searches out the causes and effects of this decline, describing the ways in which, since the 1960s, black women have been stripped of their traditional status as agents of change in the community-and how, as a result, the black community has faltered. Radford-Hill explores the shortcomings of second-wave black and white feminism, revealing how their theoretical underpinnings have had unintended (and often unacknowledged) negative consequences for black women’s lives and their communities. While acknowledging that African American women have made significant contributions to the black struggle for justice in America, Radford-Hill argues that more needs to be done. She combines social criticism and critical analysis to argue that black women must revive their legacy of activism and reclaim the tradition of nurturing in the black community, proposing specific tactics that can be used to revive the support networks that help determine the obligations of community members and guide how people interact on an everyday level. As a deft account of genesis and effects of black women’s diminishing power, and as a sobering analysis of the devastating blunders of feminist theory and practice, this work makes a compelling argument for an "authentic feminism," one that aggressively connects the realities of women’s experiences, needs, aspirations, and responsibilities.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright, Poem

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

I read Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex ([1953] 1974) in 1971. My friend Alix Mitchell lent me the book and insisted that I read it. Although the length of the book was forbidding and much of it was decidedly over my twenty-two-year-old head, I remember being struck by its cogent and unrelenting analysis of the second-class status of women. ...

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pp. xv-xxiv

In basic terms, the purpose of feminist theorizing is to provide true and useful information about the meaning, significance, and impact of gender on human history. Feminist thought is the deliberative, polemic, speculative, and creative discourse from which feminist theory often emerges. ...

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1. Toward an Authentic Feminism

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pp. 1-10

This book argues several basic positions, one of which is that feminist theorizing should become more authentic. Authentic feminism is rooted in the historical and present-day struggles for women’s empowerment and self-determination. The concept of authentic feminism affirms the core values of feminist thought. ...

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2. Uses and Limits of Black Feminist Theory and the Decline of Black Women's Empowerment

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pp. 11-24

This chapter discusses the relationship between second-wave feminism and the decline of black women’s empowerment. In the context of a movement whose explicit goal was to raise women’s consciousness and engender social change, black feminists made little progress in creating feminist theories that could mobilize black women on behalf of black culture and community. ...

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3. Gender and Community: The Power of Transcendence

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pp. 25-38

Despite both penetrating and pedantic discussions of race in America, few pundits or intellectuals have effectively addressed, in practical political terms, the seemingly intractable problems of poverty, unemployment, poor education, violence, and drugs among poor blacks. Although feminist research has contributed to America’s understanding of its racial problems, ...

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4. The Crisis of Black Womanhood

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pp. 39-54

Toni Cade Bambara, Michele Wallace, Kesho Yvonne Scott, and Hortense Spillers, among others, have discussed the negative images of black womanhood embodied in the myth of matriarchy and its attendant twin mythologies: the myth of the castrating black bitch and the myth of the superwoman (Bambara, 1970; Wallace, 1979; Scott, 1991; Spillers, 1984). ...

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5. The Economic Context of Black Women's Activism

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pp. 55-68

Besides the loss of political culture, black women have economic concerns that inhibit their political activism. Feminists have not paid sufficient attention to black economic decline. It should therefore be stated at the outset that the social consequences of economic issues such as the flight of capital from the inner city, the changing nature of work, and U.S. trade policy are women’s issues. ...

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6. The Particulars of Un-Negation

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pp. 69-80

Although the role of insurgent intellectual suits my temperament, I’m really not all doom and gloom. One source of my optimism stems from the resilience of the human spirit. Another stems from the remarkable creativity of black people. ...

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7. Feminist Leadership for the New Century

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pp. 81-94

Changing the face of today’s feminisms will not be easy. It will require the leadership of women from all walks of life. It is not entirely clear that these leaders will come from the ranks of today’s feminists. In the twenty-first century, feminist leadership will require women to be committed to finding common ground without resorting to shallow co-optation or false compromise. ...

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8. Feminism, Black Women, and the Politics of Empowerment

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pp. 95-102

The value of feminist theory lies in its capacity to understand gender, the continuum of masculine and feminine behavior, as a social construct. Understanding the specific social and cultural relationships that sustain human sexuality empowers women to rewrite the history of human existence. ...

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Epilogue: Suffer but Never Silently

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pp. 103-104

Silence isn’t golden when it comes to identifying and eliminating the crisis of black womanhood. I leave you with what I hope becomes part of your personal commitment to a politically active life. ...


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pp. 105-110

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 111-116


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pp. 117-120

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About the Author

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Sheila Radford-Hill is an independent scholar with more than twenty-five years of experience in education, educational administration, advocacy, and policy development. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816690978
E-ISBN-10: 0816690979
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816634750

Page Count: 148
Publication Year: 2000

Edition: First edition

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • African American women -- Political activity.
  • African American women -- Economic conditions.
  • African American women -- Social conditions.
  • Feminist theory -- United States.
  • Feminism -- United States.
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