What is Feminism and Black Feminists

Topics: Feminism

Feminism is something that many people define differently. African American women wanted nothing but the same rights as the white women had. There are many different feminists that voice their views on feminism in different ways. Some do so through writing, some singing, some just talking on about the topic. No matter what they all believe all women should be given the same rights as one another.

Feminism Definitions

Feminism is something that many people do not understand or something people do not care to learn about.

There are many different definitions that people use when they are talking about feminism. This is because feminism is something that is constantly changing as time goes on. If a person looked up the definition of feminist in the dictionary, it would read “a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of sexes” (Merriam-Webster, 2018). While this is the definition that is found in the dictionary, many feminists have their own definition of feminist, depending on what the individual is fighting for.

One of the definitions I found, and like is one made by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her definition is, “A man or woman who says, ‘Yes, there is a problem with gender as it is today, and we must fix it, we must do better” (Adichie, 2014). All feminists believe different things and follow their own definition of what being a feminist is. They all have their own way of being a feminist.

Black Feminists

Throughout this paper we will be looking at a variety of black feminists.

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As well as the different writing and literature on each of these feminists. Information about Beyoncé and her work as a feminist will also be in the paper. Authors we will be looking at are Audre Lorde, Bell Hooks, and Anna Julia Cooper. We will look at Janelle Hobson and some of the lyrics to Beyoncé’s well-known songs. These authors will be used to discuss the different ways that black women have contributed to the feminist movement.

In early feminism most of the feminist were Caucasian. These women were not very welcoming to women of color if they wanted to join. The early beliefs of these feminists were that women should be equal, no matter their age, color, or beliefs. Unfortunately, this did not pertain to women of color. This belief was because early feminism began in 1848 and this was before the civil rights movement began which made all races equal. The black feminist movement began around the 1960s and grew out of the black liberation movement and the women’s movement (MIT, 2018). Women of color had to form their own movement. This was because they were discriminated against when they wanted to join the original Women’s Movement. They were discriminated against because they were black. All these women wanted was to be equal and have the same rights that the white women were fighting for, but it was made hard for them to do so.

Anna Julia Cooper

One of the early black feminists in history is Anna Julia Cooper. She was involved with feminism beginning in 1892. In 1892, she wrote her first book A Voice from the South by a Black Woman from the South which was written to call for equal education for women (Kelly, 2011). Anna Julia Cooper did so much more than write a book, even though her book was full of essays to fight for equal education for women of color as well. She also helped found a group for women of color called the Colored Women’s League established in 1892 (Steptoe, 2007). This club worked to improve the lives of African Americans and make their lives a lot easier to live in the everyday world. Also, it uplifted the lives of African American women (Lange,2015). With Anna Julia Cooper working to find this club and writing her book to advocate for equal education made her a popular feminist. She wanted a better and equal life for women of color and began to speak up for them through her power of writing. This helped her become one of the well-known feminists in the United States.

While Anna Julia Cooper was one of the individuals who started feminism with the women of color, it continued with many other women of color as time went on. Another black feminist that many people know is Audre Lorde. Audre Lorde described herself as black, lesbian, mother, warrior, and poet (Lorde, 2009). Audre Lorde, someone who knew she was oppressed because of not only her race but her gender. She believed that was something that did not define her, she made that known with this quote, “I simply do not believe that one aspect of myself can possibly profit from the oppression of any other part of my identity” (Lorde, 2009). She not only had her race to deal with when it came to oppression, but she was also a lesbian and had to deal with the backlash of being a lesbian too.

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde faced multiple types of oppression, but she turned to writing poetry and activism to fight back against this oppression. She began her journey in 1968 when she wrote her first book The First Cities, which began her journey into the literature world. One of her most famous articles of poetry is titled Poetry Is Not a Luxury, in this piece she discusses simply why poetry really is not a luxury. In this she states that poetry is not a luxury, but it is a necessity for existence because it forms a light toward the dreams of women (Lorde, 1982). She used poetry to help her with her identity as a radical feminist and worked for a better life for women. There is a quote that she said about poetry and why it helped her which was, “Words had an energy and power and I came to respect that power early. Pronouns, nouns, and verbs were citizens of different countries, who really got together to make a new world” (Karlins, 2015). Words are something that can be very powerful, which is what helped Audre Lorde become an activist. After reading many of Lorde’s poems it is very easy to realize that she was passionate about bettering the lives of women and working towards them gaining their independence. She dedicated her life to activism and being a good noblewoman, this made her a good feminist.

While early feminism was well known for white women and did not include a lot of black women, there has been a rise of black feminists over the last decade. Feminism is something that when people think about it, they instantly think of white women who hate men and are always angry. But feminism is something so much more than that. It is something that has now spread across multiple races and is beginning to grow. There are many black feminists out there that are fighting their own battle that could be the same or different than the one that white feminists are fighting. Every feminist has their own unique way of discussing their definition of feminism and their way of getting their word out. Bell Hooks and Audre Lorde are two similar feminists even though they were activists in different time periods they both spread their word through writing. Then you have the pop icon Beyoncé who shows her feminism through her music and her performances. Feminism is something that can be hard to understand for some people but if they find a good way to learn about it and maybe even from someone they know and understand then they will learn even more about it. Feminism is something that is important today so as the number of feminists grow, the more awareness people will have.


  1. Adichie, C. (2015) We should all be feminists. Anchor Books. New York, NY
  2. Karlins, A. (2015) Biography: Audre Lorde- radical feminist, writer, and civil rights activist. TheHeroin Collection. Date accessed December 4, 2018,
  3. Lorde, A. (2009) There is no hierarchy of oppression. Women’s Voices Feminist Visions, 6, 85-86.
  4. Lorde, A. (1982) Poetry is not a luxury. Women’s Voices Feminist Visions, 6, 281-282.
  5. Merriam-Webster. (2018) Feminist Definition. Date accessed December 4, 2018, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feminism
  6. MIT (2018) But some of us are brave: A history of black feminism in the United States. Thistle, 9.1. http://www.mit.edu/~thistle/v9/9.01/6blackf.html
  7. Steptoe,T. (2007) Cooper, Anna Julia Haywood (1858-1964). Blackpast: remembered & Reclaimed. http://www.blackpast.org/aah/cooper-anna-julia-haywood-1858-1964

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What is Feminism and Black Feminists. (2022, Mar 13). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/what-is-feminism-and-black-feminists/

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