Social movements for at least the last few generations have tussled with concepts of equality for women and what that means in relation to the overall struggle for justice. During the 1960s, women’s liberation organizing came into what became known as its Second Wave, and, with tactics like conscious raising at their disposal, women in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere began to see the distinct nature of the oppression they faced. As author Anne M. Valk notes in Radical Sisters: Second-Wave Feminism and Black Liberation in Washington, D.C., feminism impacted and would be impacted by the diverse milieu of the time.
Valk collects a vivid tapestry of stories from the period and into the 1970s. African-American progressive women, as this book makes abundantly clear, faced incredible pressures. Blasted by nationalists for hurting the status of Black men; holding accountable comrades who had professed support for women’s and gay liberation yet faced difficulties in putting it to practice; and forming their own identities as feminists separate from white women, who often had not dealt with their own internalized racism, Black women carved out a space in which political ideology found a place at the table with the practical needs of family and education. It’s hard not to admire their determination and sacrifice.
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