In the first of our February reading lists that will honor Black History Month, we are turning to Black feminism. In addition to celebrating figures like Toni Morrison, Diane Nash, and Coretta Scott King, we wanted to center several important contributions on Black feminist theory—including our latest podcast episode.
In the fifth installment of A People’s Anthology, we sat down with Beverly Smith, one of the original members of the Combahee River Collective, and one of three co-writers of their 1977 statement. Renowned for its description of oppressions as “interlocking,” the statement serves as both an update on the “triple oppression” that Claudia Jones laid out in 1949, and as an inspiration for Kimberlé W. Crenshaw’s coining of the term “intersectionality” a decade later. As Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor writes in How We Get Free:
“It is difficult to quantify the enormity of the political contribution made by the women in the collective, because so much of their analysis is taken for granted in feminist politics today—especially their description of oppressions as happening ‘simultaneously,’ thus creating new measures of oppression and inequality. In other words, Black women could not quantify their oppression only in terms of sexism or racism, or of homophobia experienced by Black lesbians. They were not ever a single category, but it was the merging or enmeshment of those identities that compounded how Black women experienced oppression.”