Women, Race, & Class 1

Hey hey readers, what are you reading?

I have to admit, I’m kind of tech snob. Not in a Apple superfan way, but that I was wary of e-readers, and I’ve no idea what I’d do with tablet or smart speaker. But Haymarket Books (which often offers great sales) was offering Remi Kanazi’s Before the Next Bomb Drops for free, so I decided to try to figure out how to use e-books. And now I’m downloading all of them! 

Current read pin

The first e-book I checked out from my library’s system is Angela Davis’s Women, Race, and Class. After realizing how devoid of diversity my bookshelf is, I was really excited to start reading work by feminists of color (even if yes, I am already in the middle of 13 other books 😅). Since it’s Black History Month, I thought I’d share some highlights of what I’ve read so far.

Chapter 1: The Legacy of Slavery: Standards for a New Womanhood

Black women were women indeed, but their experiences during slavery– hard work with their men, equality within the family, resistance, floggings and rape– had encouraged them to develop certain personality traits which set them apart from most white women.

Ironically, there was an equality for slave men and women as they were oppressed the same. Black women were not afforded the higher status that motherhood brought white women i.e., pregnant and new mother slaves still worked, were still whipped, still had to care children in the field. But because of this, the passive role expected of white women wasn’t applied to slave women. Eugene Genovese described slave families as “a closer approximation to sexual equality than possible for whites.” Consequently, Black women’s resistance matched that of men.

Chapter 2: The Anti-Slavery Movement & the Birth of Women’s Rights

This chapter was about white women that joined the abolitionist movement. Working women and middle-class housewives lost economic and social status from industrialization and may have noticed the similarities in subjugation. Women like sisters Angelina and Sarah Grimke challenged women to “join in on that struggle with the understanding that their own oppression was nurtured and perpetuated by the continued existence of the slave system.” As they organized, these women learned about those power structures, how to take action upon them, and how to challenge male supremacy from the abolitionist view which would assist in the fight for women’s liberation years later.

Sojourner Truth
When heckled that male supremacy was a Christian value as Christ was a man, Sojourner Truth replied, “Where did Christ come from?”

Chapter 3: Class & Race in the Early Women’s Rights Campaign

Chapter 3 is about the failure of those women considered part of the Women’s Rights Movement to include working white women and all Black women, enslaved and free. While there was rightful concern about inequalities in institutions like marriage, in which men controlled women’s finances, there was a lack of associating the economic control recent European immigrant women faced in unsafe mills. The first women’s rights convention, held in Seneca Falls and organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, did not have a single Black woman in attendance.

This was unfortunate because it was not as if these women weren’t fighting for their rights as well. Mill women striked and Maria Stewart gave speeches years before Seneca Falls. There are a few quotes that come to mind that convey that if one party isn’t free, one’s self isn’t free. Davis uses an Angelina Grimke quote to condemn the solidarity deficiency: “While the South has waged this [Civil] war against human rights, the North has stood by holding the garments of those who were stoning liberty to death…”

Chapter 4: Racism in the Woman Suffrage Movement

As middle-class white women neglected building “an alliance embracing labor, Black people and women,” it’s not surprising that leaders for their suffrage possessed a biased analysis of the political moment. After the US Civil War, people like Elizabeth Cady Stanton viewed emancipation as total liberation and that Black people were then on the same level as she. Yet, she became so defensive about the proposed 15th Amendment– which would grant suffrage to Black men but not women– that she would align with anyone who supported her cause including staunch racists.

Frederick Douglas, who was not only an abolitionist but an ardent supporter of women’s rights (he was only Black person at the Seneca Falls Convention), argued that because of violent attacks on Black people, support of the 15th was a means of survival. He didn’t mean to say that women’s suffrage shouldn’t be supported; it seemed like he called the passage of the 15th a boost to energize the movement for women’s suffrage. 

book cover

Hopefully, I can complete this book in a more timely manner than the last one I started for my series! Check out my last read for Black History Month about a Black Panther photo book I won from Goodreads here!

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