The History of Black Women and Internationalism (Review)

Historians in the News
tags: African American history, human rights

Dr. Robert Greene, II is an Assistant Professor of History at Claflin University. 

In 1975, the Black Radical magazine Freedomways published a tribute in celebration of the end of the International Women’s Year, which had been declared by the United Nations that same year. After arguing that 1975 had, indeed, been an important year for liberation of everyone across the globe—citing the defeat of the United States in Vietnam and the retreat of Portugal all across their former colonial holdings in Africa—the editors of Freedomways turned to the plight of women across the world as being tied to a variety of international struggles. “Freedomways, beginning 1976, just as on the eve of International Women’s Year, sees the cause of freedom for women as an essential part of Black liberation, conjoined with the struggle for the liberation of all oppressed humankind.” This statement is one that the Black American women chronicled in To Turn the Whole World Over would have agreed with.

To Turn the Whole World Overedited by Keisha N. Blain and Tiffany M. Gill, comes at a critical moment in the historiography of African American women broadly, and the intellectual history of such women. Indeed, it is a testament to the growth of African American women’s intellectual history that such a volume would have been difficult to imagine even a decade ago. Yet, what Blain and Gill, along with their contributors, have done is to push readers to consider the broad definitions of “internationalism” and how they can be useful for understanding the activism and leadership of women of African descent throughout the Black diaspora.

The anthology makes a crucial contribution in rethinking what intellectual history can be. In particular, the flow of ideas across borders is challenged and expanded in this volume to go beyond the traditional ideas of radical politics. Wrote Blain and Gill in the introduction, “Indeed, centering on women’s experiences expands the dynamics of internationalism beyond the narrow confines of political struggle.” In other words, To Turn the Whole World Over offers examples of how to think about the rich legacy of intellectual history that crosses national, religious, and racial borders through travel, art, and economic consumption.

Read entire article at Black Perspectives

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