Black Feminist Futures: A Reading List

Presenters at the 2016 Black Feminist Futures Symposium at Northwestern University (Credit: Organizers Shoniqua Roach, Chelsea M. Frazier, and Brittnay Proctor).

In 1994, Ann duCille proclaimed that black feminism occupies a precarious status within the academy, due, in part, to its lack of a disciplinary home and the pervasive denigration of black feminist intellectual and affective labor. More than two decades later, black feminism’s status is equally, if not more, precarious, particularly as it has been relegated to the bastion of identity politics, a designation every rigorous critic now regards as passé. At the same time, amidst growing concerns around the ontological status of black life, the neoliberal rollback of civil rights gains, and persistent theorizations of post-911 conditions, activists, scholars, and cultural critics alike are reaching back for and stretching out toward black feminist analytics, methods, and politics. They have lauded the import of black feminism’s theorization(s) of historical and current conditions, asserting that black feminism cultivates inroads to freedom. Toward this end, critics have attempted to harness and actualize black feminist futures, as suggested by the various activist projects, special journal issues and articles, and performance workshops that have brandished some iteration of the appellation “black feminist future(s).”

*This is a list of of books–published in 2016–that were compiled for the Black Feminist Futures Symposium at Northwestern University. The Black Feminist Futures Symposium, organized by Shoniqua Roach, Chelsea M. Frazier, and Brittnay Proctor, took place on Friday, May 20th-Saturday, May 21st, 2016 at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art (Northwestern University, Evanston Campus). The symposium invested in generating a radically interdisciplinary conversation that engages questions around black feminist futurity. Participants surveyed interdisciplinary discourses within and beyond the field of black feminist theory to investigate the conditions of possibility for black feminist futurity within the academy. Speakers included Kara Keeling, Omise’eke Tinsley, Kai M. Green, Vanessa Agard-Jones, Jayna Brown, Nicole Fleetwood, C. Riley Snorton, Zakiyyah Jackson, Tina Campt, Jafari Allen, Matt Richardson, Cathy Cohen, Treva Lindsey, Roderick Ferguson, Monica Miller, and Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman.


*This list originally appeared in BCALA Newsletter (Spring 2017) and has been reprinted with permission.


Kathleen E. Bethel

Kathleen E. Bethel is the African American Studies Librarian at Northwestern University Libraries, Evanston, IL, with liaison responsibilities for Gender & Sexuality Studies, and Caribbean Studies. She serves on boards of the Center for Black Genealogy, the Project on the History of Black Writing and the SonEdna Foundation. A Life Member of the Toni Morrison Society and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Inc., she has served on the executive bodies of ASALH, the American Library Association, the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, and Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History. Follow her on Twitter @AALibnNU.

Comments on “Black Feminist Futures: A Reading List

  • This is an important list within an important conversation. I am sharing it with the black polyamory group on Facebook where a rousing discussion ensues presently over the distinctions between feminism, as defined in Webster’s dictionary – bland and white as grits – and black feminism (womanism) as defined in the real worlds of activism and social application.

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