Contributions and Characteristics of African American Feminism from Sojourner Truth Up to the 21st Century

Contributionsand Characteristics of African American Feminism from Sojourner TruthUp to the 21stCentury

Theterm feminism varies in meaning to different feminists in the UnitedStates depending on different factors for different women such astheir race and their class in the society (Roth, 572). This led todevelopment of black feminism in 1960s and 1970s. Male dominanceposed challenges original in the civil rights movement and this wasmainly countered by white feminists. However, the fight for equalityon a racial basis is dated to have started back before the wave ofblack feminism.

In1851, a Woman’s Rights Convention was held in Akron between 28thand 29thMay. The convention was a platform for several women to speak in thedefense for women and call for a change in morals and reform in legalelements in support of this. Sojourner Truth was one of the speakersat the convention and delivered her speech on the second day titled“Ain’t I a woman?”. Her speech has gained popularity forfighting and arguing for the rights of women of color in a socialcontext and class during her time. Truth used the Bible and herpersonal experience to justify equality between the two sexes. In herspeech, “Ain’t I a woman,” she established her identity as awoman in the society and a citizen in general. She asserted anargument for the rights of women based on their capacity in thephysical and intellectual areas of life.

Theidea behind the second-wave of black feminism movement did not comeup due to being marginalized by the white feminists or by themovement for black liberation. It is not an element resulting fromthe need to add the element of race into the fight for genderequality (Roth, 573). A Vanguard Center was developed by theAfrican-American feminists due to their lack of satisfaction with thebasis of black liberation movement and white feminist movements(Roth, 573). Black feminism chose to address the shortcomings theydrew from the two movements which was sexism in the case of blackliberation and racism in the case of white feminism.

Thesecond wave black feminism movement developed as a result of conflictand a difference in opinion in certain issues. They had a differencein perspective with regards to family in a class and racial point. For instance, white feminists were intent on abortion rights. Blackfeminists viewed this policy as imperfect as it did not encompass allangles of concern in reproduction (Roth, 573).

Inaddition, black women were keen on the stabilization of a familystructure while white women had the agenda of reshaping theconventional family structure (Roth, 373). This was in the sense asto white women family obligations come out as oppression while blackwomen found family to be an institution that was not oppressive.Motherhood meant doom for white women while black women advocated fora communal style to being a mother. In simple terms, black women feltthat the privilege of class was able to buy a woman out of familyresponsibilities as one can hire another person to do your work whichdid not go well with them.


Roth,B. (1999). “The Making of the Vanguard Center: Black FeministsEmergence in the 1960s and 1970”. InStill Lifting, Still Climbing: African American Women’sContemporary Activism, edited byKimberly Springer. New York: New York University Press.