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#BlkWomenSyllabus: Here Are 25 Must Reads for the Empowered Black Woman



#BlkWomenSyllabus was created in response to the violation of 21-year-old Charnesia Corley by a deputy in Texas. Corley says she was sexually assaulted by the deputy during a traffic stop on June 21.




The hashtag was initiated by Dr. Daina Ramey Berry and is a archive of writing and resources to empower Black women. Scholars, historians, writers, editors and more have contributed to the growing trend.
Below is a selection of 25 books suggested by twitter users. Use the hashtag #blkwomensyllabus to find hundreds more suggestions.


1. Sisters in the Struggle: African-American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement by Bettye Collier-Thomas & V.P. Franklin



In Sisters in the Struggle, we hear about the unsung heroes of the civil rights movements such as Ella Baker, who helped found the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, Fannie Lou Hamer, a sharecropper who took on segregation in the Democratic party (and won), and Septima Clark, who created a network of "Citizenship Schools" to teach poor Black men and women to read and write and help them to register to vote. We learn of Black women's activism in the Black Panther Party where they fought the police, as well as the entrenched male leadership, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where the behind-the-scenes work of women kept the organization afloat when it was under siege. It also includes first-person testimonials from the women who made headlines with their courageous resistance to segregation—Rosa Parks, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, and Dorothy Height


2. Witnessing and Testifying by Rosetta E. Ross


After a chapter exploring black women's religious context and presenting early examples of this work by women of the ante-bellum and post-Reconstruction eras, Ross looks at seven civil rights activists who continue this tradition. They are Ella Josephine Baker, Septima Poinsette Clark, Fannie Lou Hamer, Victoria Way DeLee, Clara Muhammad, Diane Nash, and Ruby Doris Smith Robinson. In a fascinating narrative style that draws on biography, social history, and original archival research, Ross shows how their moral formation and work reflect both womanist consciousness and practices of witness and testimony, both emergent from the black religious context. Ross' major work is engrossing history and moving ethical challenge. Examining black women's civil rights activism as religiously impelled moral practices brings a new insight to work on the movement and lifts up a paradigm for engagement in the mountainous challenges of contemporary social life.


3. At the Dark End of the Street by Danielle L. McGuire



At the Dark End of the Street describes the decades of degradation black women on the Montgomery city buses endured on their way to cook and clean for their white bosses. It reveals how Rosa Parks, by 1955 one of the most radical activists in Alabama, had had enough. “There had to be a stopping place,” she said, “and this seemed to be the place for me to stop being pushed around.” Parks refused to move from her seat on the bus, was arrested, and, with fierce activist Jo Ann Robinson, organized a one-day bus boycott.

4. A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story by Elaine Brown




Brown's account of her life at the highest levels of the Black Panther party's hierarchy. More than a journey through a turbulent time in American history, this is the story of a black woman's battle to define herself.


5. Crescent City Girls by LaKisha Michelle Simmons



Simmons makes use of oral histories, the black and white press, social workers' reports, police reports, girls' fiction writing, and photography to tell the stories of individual girls: some from poor, working-class families; some from middle-class, "respectable" families; and some caught in the Jim Crow judicial system. These voices come together to create a group biography of ordinary girls living in an extraordinary time, girls who did not intend to make history but whose stories transform our understanding of both segregation and childhood.


6. If They Come in the Morning: Voices of Resistance by Angela Y. Davis



The trial of Angela Yvonne Davis in connection with the prisoner revolt by three black prisoners on August 7, 1970 at the Marin County Courthouse will be remembered as one of America's most historic political trials, and no one can tell the story better than Miss Davis herself. This book is also perhaps the most comprehensive and thorough analysis of that increasingly important symbol — the political prisoner. Of her trial, Miss Davis writes, "I am charged with three capital offenses — murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy. My life is at stake in this case — not simply the life of a lone individual, but a life which has been given over to the struggles of my people, a life which belongs to Black people who are tired of poverty, and racism, of the unjust imprisonment of tens of thousands of our brothers and sisters."


7. Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC by Faith S. Holsaert, Martha Prescod Norman Noonan, Judy Richardson, Betty Garman Robinson, Jean Smith Young, & Dorothy M. Zellner



In Hands on the Freedom Plow, fifty-two women--northern and southern, young and old, urban and rural, black, white, and Latina--share their courageous personal stories of working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement.


8. "Swing the Sickle for the Harvest Is Ripe": Gender and Slavery in Antebellum Georgia by Daina Berry


"Swing the Sickle for the Harvest Is Ripe" compares the work, family, and economic experiences of enslaved women and men in upcountry and lowcountry Georgia during the nineteenth century. Mining planters' daybooks, plantation records, and a wealth of other sources, Daina Ramey Berry shows how slaves' experiences on large plantations, which were essentially self-contained, closed communities, contrasted with those on small plantations, where planters' interests in sharing their workforces allowed slaves more open, fluid communications. By inviting readers into slaves' internal lives through her detailed examination of domestic violence, separation and sale, and forced breeding, Berry also reveals important new ways of understanding what it meant to be a female or male slave, as well as how public and private aspects of slave life influenced each other on the plantation.


9. When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost by Joan Morgan



In this fresh, funky, and ferociously honest book, award-winning journalist Joan Morgan bravely probes the complex issues facing African-American women in today's world: a world where feminists often have not-so-clandestine affairs with the most sexist of men; where women who treasure their independence often prefer men who pick up the tab; and where the deluge of babymothers and babyfathers reminds black women who long for marriage that traditional nuclear families are a reality for less than 40 percent of the African-American population.


10. Making a Way Out of No Way: A Womanist Theology by Monica A. Coleman



In her new book, Monica A. Coleman articulates the African American expression of "making a way out of no way" for today's context of globalization, religious pluralisam, and sexual diversity. Drawing on womanist religious scholarship and process thought, Coleman describes the symbiotic relationship among God, the ancestors, and humanity that helps to change the world into the just society it ought to be. "Making a Way Out of No Way" shows us a way of living for justice with God and proposes a communal theology that presents a dynamic way forward for black churches, African traditional religions and grassroots organizations.


11. Birthing a Slave: Motherhood and Medicine in the Antebellum South by Marie Jenkins Schwartz



In the antebellum South, slaveholders' interest in slave women was matched by physicians struggling to assert their own professional authority over childbirth, and the two began to work together to increase the number of infants born in the slave quarter. In unprecedented ways, doctors tried to manage the health of enslaved women from puberty through the reproductive years, attempting to foster pregnancy, cure infertility, and resolve gynecological problems, including cancer.


12. Maria W. Stewart, America's First Black Woman Political Writer by Marilyn Richardson


In gathering and introducing Stewart’s works, Richardson provides an opportunity for readers to study the thoughts and words of this influential early black female activist, a forerunner to Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth and the first black American to lecture in defense of women’s rights, placing her in the context of the swirling abolitionist movement.


13. When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America by Paula J. Giddings



When and Where I Enter reveals the immense moral power black women possessed and sought to wield throughout their history--the same power that prompted Anna Julia Cooper in 1892 to tell a group of black clergymen, "Only the black woman can say 'when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole . . . race enters with me.'"


14. Learning to (Re)member the Things We've Learned to Forget by Cynthia B. Dillard




Feminist research has both held and contested experience as a category of epistemological importance, often as a secular notion. However, spirituality and sacred knowing are also fundamental to a Black/endarkened feminist epistemology in teaching and research, given the historical and cultural experiences of African ascendant women worldwide. How can (re)membering bear witness to our individual and collective spiritual consciousness and generate new questions that inform feminist theory and practice? Learning to (Re)member the Things We’ve Learned to Forget explores that question. Theorizing through sites and journeys across the globe and particularly in Ghana, West Africa, this book explores how spirituality, location, experience, and cultural memory engage and create an endarkened feminist subjectivity that can (re)member, opening possibilities for research and teaching that honors the wisdom, history, and cultural productions of African diasporic women particularly and persons of African heritage generally.


15. Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recover by bell hooks



In Sisters of the Yam, bell hooks reflects on the ways in which the emotional health of black women has been and continues to be impacted by sexism and racism. Desiring to create a context where black females could both work on their individual efforts for self-actualization while remaining connected to a larger world of collective struggle, hooks articulates the link between self-recovery and political resistance. Both an expression of the joy of self-healing and the need to be ever vigilant in the struggle for equality, Sisters of the Yam continues to speak to the experience of black womanhood.


16. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo




In Bulawayo’s engaging and often disturbing semiautobiographical first novel, 10-year-old Darling describes, with childlike candor and a penetrating grasp of language, first, her life in Zimbabwe during its so-called Lost Decade and then her life as a teenager in present-day America. What is at once delightful and disturbing is the fact that young Darling and her friends are so resilient amidst chaos. Darling must cope with absentee parents gone to who-knows-where, seeking jobs and a better life; abusive adults; and murdering bands of self-appointed police in a country gone horribly wrong. Yet she evinces a sense of chauvinism regarding her corrupt homeland when she joins her aunt in America. There she discovers a country that has fallen into a different kind of chaos, primarily economic. She and her new family struggle while America fails to live up to her hopes. Ultimately what lingers is Bulawayo’s poignant insights into how a person decides what to embrace and what to surrender when adapting to a new culture in a new land.


17. Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington


This groundbreaking study documents that the infamous Tuskegee experiments, in which black syphilitic men were studied but not treated, was simply the most publicized in a long, and continuing, history of the American medical establishment using African-Americans as unwitting or unwilling human guinea pigs. Washington, a journalist and bioethicist who has worked at Harvard Medical School and Tuskegee University, has accumulated a wealth of documentation, beginning with Thomas Jefferson exposing hundreds of slaves to an untried smallpox vaccine before using it on whites, to the 1990s, when the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University ran drug experiments on African-American and black Dominican boys to determine a genetic predisposition for "disruptive behavior." Washington is a great storyteller, and in addition to giving us an abundance of information on "scientific racism," the book, even at its most distressing, is compulsively readable. It covers a wide range of topics—the history of hospitals not charging black patients so that, after death, their bodies could be used for anatomy classes; the exhaustive research done on black prisoners throughout the 20th century—and paints a powerful and disturbing portrait of medicine, race, sex and the abuse of power.


18. Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts



This is a no-holds-barred response to the liberal and conservative retreat from an assertive, activist, and socially transformative civil rights agenda of recent years--using a black feminist lens and the issue of the impact of recent legislation, social policy, and welfare "reform" on black women's--especially poor black women's--control over their bodies' autonomy and their freedom to bear and raise children with respect and dignity in a society whose white mainstream is determined to demonize, even criminalize their lives. It gives its readers a cogent legal and historical argument for a radically new , and socially transformative, definition of "liberty" and "equality" for the American polity from a black feminist perspective.


19. For Freedom's Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer by Chana Kai Lee



The youngest of twenty children of sharecroppers in rural Mississippi, Fannie Lou Hamer witnessed throughout her childhood the white cruelty, political exclusion, and relentless economic exploitation that defined black existence in the Delta. In this intimate biography, Chana Kai Lee documents Hamer's lifelong crusade to empower the poor through collective action, her rise to national prominence as a civil rights activist, and the personal costs of her ongoing struggle to win a political voice and economic self-sufficiency for blacks in the segregated South. Lee traces Hamer's early work as a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in rural Mississippi, documenting the partial blindness she suffered after being arrested and beaten by local officials for leading a group of blacks to register for the vote. Hamer's dramatic appearance at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, where she led a group from the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in a bid to unseat the all-white Mississippi delegation, brought both Hamer and the virtual powerlessness of black Mississippians to the nation's attention; but the convention also marked her first debilitating encounter with the middle class of the national civil rights movement.


20. To 'Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women's Lives and Labors after the Civil War by Tera W. Hunter



As the Civil War drew to a close, newly emancipated black women workers made their way to Atlanta--the economic hub of the newly emerging urban and industrial south--in order to build an independent and free life on the rubble of their enslaved past. In an original and dramatic work of scholarship, Tera Hunter traces their lives in the postbellum era and reveals the centrality of their labors to the African-American struggle for freedom and justice. Household laborers and washerwomen were constrained by their employers' domestic worlds but constructed their own world of work, play, negotiation, resistance, and community organization.


21. Walking in Circles: The Black Struggle for School Reform by Barbara A. Sizemore


In this examination of the American school system, a career education expert determines how existing policies have kept inner-city youth at a disadvantage—citing, among other issues, the achievement gap between black and white students—and lays the groundwork for future improvements.



A collection of essays which examine various themes including the issues of race and class and their effect on the US judicial system; growing up in Brooklyn; searching for the American dream; the relationship between poetry and politics; Nelson Mandela, Clarence Thomas, Anita Hill and Mike Tyson.



The vibrant humor of African American women is celebrated in this bold, unique, and comprehensive collection.Often hard-hitting, sometimes risque, always dramatic and eloquent ("Sure God created Man before Woman, but then you always make a rough draft before the Final Masterpiece"), this humor arises from the depth and breadth of black women's lives. Daryl Cumber Dance has brought together a wonderful assemblage of contributors for Honey, Hush! -- from slave narrators to contemporary political commentators, from antebellum poets to Audre Lorde, from the earliest novelists to Toni Morrison, from Beulah to Whoopi Goldberg, from the blues singer to the rapper.As Dance was growing up, she absorbed this humor that spoke to all aspects of women's lives: hair, men, white folk, black people, and the nation. She describes it as "the natural delight of my life". If indeed humor is "God's aspirin to soothe the headache of reality", as the folk tell us, then this book is just the prescription the doctor ordered.-- "Honey, Hush!" is an exclamation used among black women, especially those from the South, as a friendly encouragement, a mild suggestion of playful disbelief, or a suggestion that one is telling truths that are prohibited.


African American women have commonly been portrayed as "pillars" of their communities--resilient mothers, sisters, wives, and grandmothers who remain steadfast in the face of all adversities. While these portrayals imply that African American women have few psychological problems, the scientific literature and demographic data present a different picture. They reveal that African American women are at increased risk for psychological distress because of factors that disproportionately affect them, including lower incomes, greater poverty and unemployment, unmarried motherhood, racism, and poor physical health. Yet at the same time, rates of mental illness are low. This invaluable book is the first comprehensive examination of the contradictions between the strengths and vulnerabilities of this population. Using the contexts of race, gender, and social class, In and Out of Our Right Minds challenges the traditional notions of mental health and mental illness as they apply to African American women.


25. History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave, as Related by Herself by Mary Prince


Mary Prince was the first woman slave to write of her experience. Her recollections are vivid, powerful, and lyrical. Upon its publication the book had a galvanizing effect on the abolitionist movement in England.

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