The Black Freedom Struggle

The idea of “black freedom struggles” is a phrase scholars and activists use.  You will find similar phrases on scholars’ books, such as Barbara Ransby’s Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement.

But more than a subtitle of a book, “black freedom” is meant to emphasize that black people have fought or “struggled” for their “freedom” in various ways in the past, present, and the future. Scholar Robin D. G. Kelley has coined another related term, “freedom dreams,” to consider how black radicals imagined and thought about, and the pursuit for, “freedom.” However one frames it, the idea of “freedom” is central, and more importantly for this course and your own historical understanding, it has never been limited to “integration” or even “civil rights,” but might entail an anti-capitalist approach, feminist, pan-African, or transnational, or all of these above. All of these ideas and movements, as will see have been fraught with the debate and have meant different things to different activists.

Here are some articles that engage some of these issues, historiographically:

Theoharis, Jeanne_Black Freedom Studies


Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua and Clarence Lang_The_long_movement_as_vampire_sundiata_cha_jua_and_clarence_lang



Black Mothers and the Black Freedom Struggle.

In “Running With the Reds,” LaShawn Harris illuminates the roles of black mothers, as activists, in the communist party or at least using the CP as vehicle for their own political goals.  Harris centers the activism of Ada Wright, the mother of two boys in the Scottsboro case in the 1930s and 1940s. We have seen similar cases in our present, including Jordan Davis’s mother, Lucy McBath, an activist and now Congresswoman, representing the 6th district of Georgia, and  and then running for public office; and Michael Brown’s mother, Lezley McSpadden, and author of Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil: The Life, Legacy, and Love of My Son Michael Brown.

Also, Black daughters (and sons) and the Black Freedom struggle, see:

LaShawn Harris, “Beyond the Shooting: Eleanor Gray Bumpurs, Identity Erasure, and Family Activism Against Police Violence” and Keisha Blain’s “We will overcome whatever [it] is the system has become today”: Black Women’s Organizing against Police Violence in New York City in the 1980s”


Automating Bias & Ida Bae Wells

“Nikole Hannah-Jones is an award-winning investigative reporter covering racial injustice for the New York Times Magazine. She investigates the way racial segregation in housing and schools is maintained through official action and policy.” website twitter

This is mainly an introduction to a fantastic twitter account. For anyone who perhaps hasn’t read her work, Nikole Hannah-Jones (aka Ida Bae Wells and founder of The Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting) is absolutely brilliant. Recently, when Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called attention to radicalized computer programming,  this twitter thread was born, calling attention to previous reports that show automated bias.

“But that program’s functioning was detailed in a published report, allowing those with subject-matter expertise to confirm that morally troubling (and constitutionally impermissible) variables — such as race, gender and variables that could proxy the two (for example, ZIP code) — were not being considered.”

Turning the Women’s March into a Mass Movement Was Never Going to Be Easy

By Keeanga-Yahmahtta Taylor

“As the third anniversary of the Women’s March approaches, the political tensions that underlie these considerations have boiled over and split the movement. A stark example of the acrimony pervading the Women’s March is that there will be two women’s marches in New York City this year—and two national networks coordinating these and other marches across the country. One march is being organized by Women’s March Inc., the national organization that has spearheaded the marches in DC and served as the umbrella for the larger movement; the other is being coordinated by the Women’s March Alliance, the group that planned the New York iterations of the march in 2017 and 2018; this group is working in tandem with March On, which is the second national network coordinating marches.”

Hello world!

Happy New Year and Welcome to Black Women in the Black Freedom Struggle

This course spans the period from the late nineteenth century to the present. The course centers the activism of black women in the US and the multiple ways they challenged inequality and injustice in the arenas of race, class, gender, and, to a letter extent, sexuality. Centering mainly historical scholarship on black activists as an entryway, students will learn about black women activism on a range of issues, stretching various eras and ideological perspectives, including the anti-lynching movement, the civil rights and black power eras, and presently during the Movement for Blacks Lives. To do this, students examine black feminism as it has evolved over the course of time, specifically how black women have formulated and reformulated notions of black feminismas a lens to spotlight black women’s experiences as different from black men’s but also white women’s in the US. Students will write a final paper that will reflect their historical understanding of black women in the BFS showcasing their expertise in historical knowledge, critical reasoning skills, and clear communication.