Response: Black Feminist Thought


Patricia Hill Collins’s work, Black Feminist Thought, is required reading for anybody attempting to understand Black feminism. I’m really grateful I read it before some of the other books on my challenge list, because it provides a cogent theoretical framework for understanding the concerns of other women, writing both fiction and non-fiction, that I’ve encountered since reading this text. If you were only going to read one of the 100 suggested books, I’d make it this one.

Image spotted at BuzzFeed - click through to read original source article (it's a good one).

Image spotted at BuzzFeed – click through to read original source article (it’s a good one).

The revised tenth anniversary edition contains the prefaces to both the first and second editions, which allows the reader to see how Collins’s approach to her work has changed over time. The heart of the book is divided into three sections: one in which Collins explains how black feminism is socially constructed, one in which she explores its major themes, and one in which she speaks of the relationship between knowledge and power.

This is not the sort of book you read one time and say, “Oh, okay, got it.” This is a book to buy and re-read, so that its words and ideas will sink into your own feminist practice (if you choose to have one — or, at least, to understand what motivates so many people to have one). If you are not familiar with the stereotypes, images, and frameworks Collins outlines, you will receive a new set of lenses through which to view the world, if you have the courage to do so. If those lenses are already part of your lived experiences, you will receive affirmation for the world you know, and the ways in which it has held you back. In fact, while the book is decidedly academic, one of its greatest strengths is that it emphasizes the role of lived experience for women who have been denied the privilege of academe (or who function uneasily there, despite gaining entrance).

With an extensive list of references and many more in-text notes from which to find new sources of knowledge/wisdom, Collins’s book is recommended for anyone ready to start a serious independent study of Black feminism. It’s the kind of book you might not come across unless you are already inclined to read books like it, which is why I wrote a response to it: after a certain point in life, you can’t rely on teachers to point you to texts you might find interesting. You have to take responsibility and seek them out yourself. And then, to partially repay the debt for what you’ve learned, you are honor-bound to share.

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