Transnational and Trans-disciplinary Routes: Black Feminism in the 1960s and 1970s

AHA Session 119
Saturday, January 3, 2015: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Liberty Suite 5 (Sheraton New York, Third Floor)
Robyn Spencer, Lehman College, City University of New York
Feminism and Revolution: Angela Davis in Cuba
Sarah Seidman, Museum of the City of New York
Black Panther Women in the Third World
Choonib Lee, Stony Brook University
Robyn Spencer, Lehman College, City University of New York

Session Abstract

In the 1960s and 1970s, African American feminists traveled internationally and interacted with women in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. This interdisciplinary panel explores the routes of transnational black feminism in the 1960s and 1970s. Specifically, the papers on this panel examine the role of the U.S. black feminist movement and the impact of African American women beyond the boundaries of the United States. By employing an interdisciplinary approach to examining the transnational and migratory routes of black women, we can better understand the global nature of the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s and assess its historical obstacles and achievements.

Our papers follow the routes of black feminist protagonists. Choonib Lee’s paper examines Black Panther Party member Kathleen Cleaver’s transnational feminism and encounters and relationships with Third World women through her trip to North Korea and exile in Algeria in the late 1960s and 1970s. Chris Johnson examines the relationship between women in the black liberation movement in the United States and the growth of the Black Liberation Front’s “Self-Help” movement spearheaded by black British women in the 1970s. Sarah Seidman’s paper explores the experience and reception of scholar-activist Angela Davis in Cuba in the 1960s and 1970s, focusing in particular on how gender shaped her convergence with the Cuban Revolution. These papers examine specific encounters between African American women with other women around the world, and analyze the broader internationalist programs and migratory flows of black feminism in the 1960s and 1970s. Transnational black women’s activism deepens understanding of how global networks, travel, and migration created both new avenues for feminist struggles and impacted movements within national borders.

This panel draws from history and other disciplines to explore transnational black feminism in the 1960s and the 1970s. By taking race and gender as primary categories of analysis, panelists utilize theories from the fields of Africana Studies and Women and Gender Studies and appeal to historians working in those fields. In addition, the study of the movement of people, ideas, and cultural forms across the globe lends itself to interdisciplinary approaches that utilize ethnography, visual culture studies, and literary analysis. As scholars operating in the field of History as well as American Studies and Africana Studies, the panelists bring to the topic of black transnational feminism a trans-disciplinary sensibility that sheds new light on the pivotal encounters between women across the globe at a historical moment of great possibility and inevitable challenges.

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