Reclaiming the Sister-Struggle: Women in the Black Nationalist Tradition
Candace Lani Katungi
Thesis DT 3.5 2005 K388
x, 130 leaves ; 28 cm.
“Reclaiming the Sister-Struggle” offers a social historiography of women’s participation in the Black nationalist tradition, as evolved in the United States. Given the legacy of Black women’s involvement in racial uplift movements and projects, this thesis departs from the dominant discourse on Black nationalism, that fails to recognize women’s involvement and leadership within the tradition. Indeed, this thesis contends that Black women have been critical actors in the development and practice of Black Nationalism.
In analyzing women’s experiences within the Black nationalist tradition, it is important to “look between the lines,” as a means to see what lies behind the prevailing (mis)interpretations. To position women within the tradition, therefore, this thesis takes on the task of understanding why, and how, the dominant discourse on Black nationalism fails to accurately credit Black women’s participation. Specifically looking at internal and external forms of patriarchy, it is found that the marginalization of women within the history of Black nationalism does not result from an absence. On the contrary, Black women have been consistent agents within the tradition. Their efforts, however, have been under-acknowledged and under-valued, and consequently, under-recorded. This thesis, therefore, attempts to recover the legacy of these women.
To demonstrate the historic and continued thread of Black women’s involvement within the Black nationalist tradition, this thesis examines a considerably large time frame beginning in the 19th century and into the mid twentieth century. Within this considerable trajectory, four women, in particular, are analyzed: Maria Stewart of the 19th century, Amy Jacques Garvey of the early 20th century, and Kathleen Cleaver and Assasta Shakur of the 1960s and 70s. Within the discussion, acute attention is given to the ways these women demonstrated a dual commitment to overturning systems of racial oppression as well as gender imbalance.
A primary tool in recovering the histories of these women has been the recognition of them as conscious actors within the movement. Through an examination of their work, their standpoint, and their overall activism, this thesis identifies Stewart, Jacques Garvey, Cleaver, and Shakur, as clear illustrations of the invaluable influence that women have had within the Black nationalist tradition. “Reclaiming the Sister-Struggle,” thus, locates women within the Black nationalist tradition through their own example.