Work of the Fellows: Monographs

Winifred Breines, The Trouble Between Us: An Uneasy History of White and Black Women in the Feminist Movement

Breines, Winifred (Fellow, 2001-02)

Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2022

From the publisher's description:

This book considers why a racially integrated feminist movement did not develop in the second wave of the feminist movement in the 1970s. It looks at radical white and black women in the civil rights movement: black women in the Black Power movement and the Black Panther Party; Bread and Roses, a primarily white Boston socialist feminist organization, black feminism with a focus on the Combahee River Collective in Boston; and cross-racial work and conferences in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It asks why the primarily white radical feminist movement has been considered racist and whether white women's racism kept African Americans away from the white movement. White radical feminists were committed to racial equality and to building a racially integrated movement. But due to young white radical women's romanticism, unconscious racism, segregated upbringing, and class privileges, the radical feminist movement they built was not attractive to black women. Influenced by the Black Power movement, radical black women were wary of white women. They distrusted white women's privilege, their focus on sisterhood without clearly recognizing difference based on race and class, and white women's innocence. Further, African American women were uninterested in white feminism because they were politically engaged with black nationalism and racial pride. Radical black women came to believe that they had to develop their own feminism, one which recognized the centrality of race and class to gender difference. Eventually, through much work and pain, instances occurred in which white and black feminists worked together politically. Their learning curve about gender, race, and class was steep in these years. Youthful American radical feminists were racial pioneers in developing a social movement that demonstrated politically how gender, race, and class are central to understanding and struggling against social inequality.

Subjects: History; Gender and Sexuality; Feminism; Second-Wave Feminism; American History; Racism; Women's History