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Sojourning for Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism

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Sojourning for Freedom portrays pioneering black women activists from the early twentieth century through the 1970s, focusing on their participation in the U.S. Communist Party (CPUSA) between 1919 and 1956. Erik S. McDuffie considers how women from diverse locales and backgrounds became radicalized, joined the CPUSA, and advocated a pathbreaking politics committed to blac Sojourning for Freedom portrays pioneering black women activists from the early twentieth century through the 1970s, focusing on their participation in the U.S. Communist Party (CPUSA) between 1919 and 1956. Erik S. McDuffie considers how women from diverse locales and backgrounds became radicalized, joined the CPUSA, and advocated a pathbreaking politics committed to black liberation, women’s rights, decolonization, economic justice, peace, and international solidarity. McDuffie explores the lives of black left feminists, including the bohemian world traveler Louise Thompson Patterson, who wrote about the “triple exploitation” of race, gender, and class; Esther Cooper Jackson, an Alabama-based civil rights activist who chronicled the experiences of black female domestic workers; and Claudia Jones, the Trinidad-born activist who emerged as one of the Communist Party’s leading theorists of black women’s exploitation. Drawing on more than forty oral histories collected from veteran black women radicals and their family members, McDuffie examines how these women negotiated race, gender, class, sexuality, and politics within the CPUSA. In Sojourning for Freedom, he depicts a community of radical black women activist intellectuals who helped to lay the foundation for a transnational modern black feminism.


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Sojourning for Freedom portrays pioneering black women activists from the early twentieth century through the 1970s, focusing on their participation in the U.S. Communist Party (CPUSA) between 1919 and 1956. Erik S. McDuffie considers how women from diverse locales and backgrounds became radicalized, joined the CPUSA, and advocated a pathbreaking politics committed to blac Sojourning for Freedom portrays pioneering black women activists from the early twentieth century through the 1970s, focusing on their participation in the U.S. Communist Party (CPUSA) between 1919 and 1956. Erik S. McDuffie considers how women from diverse locales and backgrounds became radicalized, joined the CPUSA, and advocated a pathbreaking politics committed to black liberation, women’s rights, decolonization, economic justice, peace, and international solidarity. McDuffie explores the lives of black left feminists, including the bohemian world traveler Louise Thompson Patterson, who wrote about the “triple exploitation” of race, gender, and class; Esther Cooper Jackson, an Alabama-based civil rights activist who chronicled the experiences of black female domestic workers; and Claudia Jones, the Trinidad-born activist who emerged as one of the Communist Party’s leading theorists of black women’s exploitation. Drawing on more than forty oral histories collected from veteran black women radicals and their family members, McDuffie examines how these women negotiated race, gender, class, sexuality, and politics within the CPUSA. In Sojourning for Freedom, he depicts a community of radical black women activist intellectuals who helped to lay the foundation for a transnational modern black feminism.

30 review for Sojourning for Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism

  1. 5 out of 5

    Cherisse

    McDuffie presents a more expansive way of looking at black women's activism that takes into consideration their often neglected roles in the communist party of the United States and in the making of the feminist movement. This work chronicles women whose activism was informed by their understandings of the triple oppression of women of color both domestically and internationally. McDuffie presents a more expansive way of looking at black women's activism that takes into consideration their often neglected roles in the communist party of the United States and in the making of the feminist movement. This work chronicles women whose activism was informed by their understandings of the triple oppression of women of color both domestically and internationally.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dan Sharber

    in angela davis' wonderful book, Women, Race, & Class, she has a chapter called communist women. now imagine that chapter is expanded into an entire scholarly work and this is the book you have. davis paid homage to the radical black women of the cpusa who laid the groundwork for her own ideas around the intersectionality black women live within (ie. they are exploited and oppressed as woman, worker and black). what i like about this book too is that it doesn't simply deal with women strictly in in angela davis' wonderful book, Women, Race, & Class, she has a chapter called communist women. now imagine that chapter is expanded into an entire scholarly work and this is the book you have. davis paid homage to the radical black women of the cpusa who laid the groundwork for her own ideas around the intersectionality black women live within (ie. they are exploited and oppressed as woman, worker and black). what i like about this book too is that it doesn't simply deal with women strictly in the communist party but also includes women that were around the party, in party affiliated organizations or were a fellow traveler of the party. this expands the scope of the book and allows for mcduffie to trace the continuity of ideas that persisted among a lot of black left feminists after they left the cpusa (for various political reasons). this books is a great contribution to other books excavating and interrogating various issues within the cpusa from its founding until the rise of the new left. i recommend reading this along with Red Feminism: American Communism and the Making of Women's Liberation which deals with some of the same issues but with a different focus and from a different perspective.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Meen

    OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Angela Davis is one of my heroes. Unfortunately, much of the history of black leftist women's struggle for liberation which led up to Dr Davis' work has been erased by the mid-20th Century Red Scare. The leaders of this movement were black Communist women like Claudia Jones, Esther Cooper Jackson, Louise Thompson Patterson, Queen Mother Audley Moore and Charlene Mitchell. If you have not heard these names before, you are not alone. These unrecognised leaders however had a significant influence o Angela Davis is one of my heroes. Unfortunately, much of the history of black leftist women's struggle for liberation which led up to Dr Davis' work has been erased by the mid-20th Century Red Scare. The leaders of this movement were black Communist women like Claudia Jones, Esther Cooper Jackson, Louise Thompson Patterson, Queen Mother Audley Moore and Charlene Mitchell. If you have not heard these names before, you are not alone. These unrecognised leaders however had a significant influence on such well known leaders today as Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, not to mention Angela Davis, Paul Robeson, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Junior. They laid the groundwork for our current conception of Intersectional Feminism. They recognized that working black women were triply oppressed and therefore constituted a more significant vanguard of revolution than working white men. By uncovering the work, strategies, failures and accomplishments of these important leaders, McDuffie is restoring to us a priceless source of practical wisdom, a history of activism that was stolen from us by racist, classist, patriarchal agencies of oppression. If the very thought of reading a book about black Communist women sounds boring to you, then the FBI has done its job well. To this radical boy of Irish descent, it was a glorious discovery indeed!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Shanice Mcbean

    What a book. Fantastically detailed account of the radical history of black communist women who organized in their communities as well as in communist organizations. It's a lost history with so many lessons for the left today to learn. What a book. Fantastically detailed account of the radical history of black communist women who organized in their communities as well as in communist organizations. It's a lost history with so many lessons for the left today to learn.

  6. 4 out of 5

    V.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kendra Ross

  8. 4 out of 5

    Louk Man

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nadine Boulay

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence Smith

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Walker

  13. 5 out of 5

    Naomi Jonah

  14. 4 out of 5

    Beatrix M

  15. 5 out of 5

    George Ann

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Young

  17. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

  18. 4 out of 5

    Doris Raines

    This. Is. A. Excellence. Book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jordanna

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

  21. 4 out of 5

    Angela Jackson

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Mendiola

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bridget

  24. 5 out of 5

    Misty

  25. 4 out of 5

    Will Hornbeck

  26. 5 out of 5

    salaam shannon

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sara

  28. 5 out of 5

    Renee P

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lillie

  30. 5 out of 5

    Pamela E. Brooks

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