Week 10: Black relationships and Africana Womanism

Image: Friends. Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012). via Princeton University Art Museum collection.

First, a few housekeeping details:

  • Remember that this class doesn’t use Blackboard. Check the course website every week for updates and detailed reading instructions which will appear on this page
  • No class meeting next week (Week 9) spring break!
  • Keep working on the first written assignment. Download it on the assignments page. Use the submissions page to turn it in when done.
  • Scholarships:
    •  Dominican Day Parade Scholarship deadline is March 30! Details/application here
    • The St. George’s Society of NY Scholarship is for students with heritage from British Commonwealth countries. Deadline is May 21. The scholarship application with full details is here and Lehman’s scholarship office asks that you email them before applying at: scholarship [dot] office [at] lehman [dot] cuny [dot] edu
    • The Puerto Rican Day Parade Scholarship deadline is April 16. Details here
  • Zoom events
    • “Black Women Who Hold Up Half the Sky,” hosted by CEMOTAP. Sat. 2/27, 2 PM. Facebook event details here

On the weekly Zoom sessions:

  • Audio of the weekly classes is on the  Zoom archive page. Same password as everything else to access.
  • Sign-up info for weekly Zoom sessions is on the Zoom meet info page. I recommend saving the meeting ID and password in your calendar or elsewhere to easily join

Quick highlights from Week 8 (3/24)’s class:

  • Reviewed the parts of Chapter 6 on sociology and the Black Family  in Maulana Karenga’s Introduction to Black Studies (pages 250-268).
  • My lecture notes are in the usual spot
  • Resource/for further reading: Joyce Ladner The Death of White Sociology
  • Zoom wait music: Salt n’ Pepa’s “Heaven or Hell”: on YouTube here (with an excellent video)
  • Intermission music:  Nana Camille Yarbrough’s “Tell It” and “Can I Get a Witness” from her Ancestor House CD. On YouTube here and here.
  • See the PBS series Race: the Power of an Illusion for a quick overview of housing segregation/wealth accumulation in the US. Lots of good stuff at the companion website. Housing discrimination in the US by official government policy as an example of institutional racism (racism supported/done by official institutions/governments.) See a 30-minute clip on Vimeo.

For Wednesday 4/7, (Week 10), there are two readings to do. (Week 9 is spring break.)

Finish chapter 6 in Maulana Karenga’s Introduction to Black Studies. Read last part of the chapter (pp. 268-285) on the various feminisms/womanisms and the section on relationships, with a focus on “the connections.”

[Additional reading TBA on Saturday 3/27 as PDF file]

What to read for:

The second half of chapter 6 deals with varying approaches to gender studies and relationships in Africana Studies. Think about how the foundation of quality relationships is framed here.

RESPOND to one idea in the textbook chapter or the PDF and DISCUSS it with classmates and myself with the comment board at the bottom of this post

ATTEND the weekly Zoom session @ 6 PM EST on Wednesday April 7

General reading strategies:

  • Underline/highlight key points in the text
  • Use the reading questions at the back of chapters to focus you: read those first
  • Try to understand the definitions of the key concepts listed at the back of the chapter
  • Make a note to ask the instructor to clarify anything you don’t understand
  • Note key issues, approaches, and dilemmas/challenges Dr. Karenga outlines

Discussion questions

  • See chapter/essay highlights above

What’s Next?

Chapter 7 (Politics) in Introduction to Black Studies

Comments on posts:

Scroll all the way to the bottom of the post for the “Leave a Comment” button below. Here’s how it works: you can use this to discuss points raised here.  A few points:

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  • Comments section will only be open to enrolled students
  • You have to leave your name (enter as first name and last initial only) so a) I can make sure only people in the class are commenting and b) you get credit for the comment
  • Remember to be respectful, especially when responding to classmates
  • The comments section closes 14 days after a post goes live

To ‘participate’ in the class, I’d like to see everyone 1) post a substantive comment of their own based on either the reading or my lecture using some of the questions raised or conversation prompts, and 2) to respond thoughtfully to someone else’s comment—not just agree/disagree, but add on evidence or ask a follow-up question. You can also ask a question–for me or others–but that doesn’t count toward your comment and reply needed for the grade. It’s fine with me if conversation continues in a thread as long as it does, but two responses showing a clear engagement with the reading will count for being ‘present.’ Does that make sense? You have two weeks to write those two comments for credit.

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38 thoughts on “Week 10: Black relationships and Africana Womanism

  1. In the reading for chapter 6 one part that caught my attention was when it talks about Anna Julia Cooper. This women stands out and is the most referenced early womanist. In the seminar volume A voice From the South she criticizes racism, sexism and classim. She also expresses herself by telling us ” there is a feminine as well as masculine side to the truth, that these are related, not as inferior or superior, not as better or worse, not as weaker or stronger, but as complements in one necessary and symmetric whole.”

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    • Hello Raquel, I agree with what you said about Anna Julia Cooper. Also, just to add on it is important that women have a voice as well, because they are important. Women spend so much time supporting men, to the point that their voice is not heard.

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      • Women do spend a lot of time supporting men, however its not always reciprocated. I feel like dominance comes with submission and these two work hand in hand. If we stopped society to think about this maybe our views on the need for femininity and masculinity in its differences, we join the two because we need both sides because they work hand in hand.

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    • Hello Raquel and Teliah, I agree with you both about how remarkable these two women’s ideas were, and how they stand out in the contexts of the early 19th and early 20th centuries. Rather than agreeing with men of their eras that woman should play a limited role in society, they simply affirmed the equality of male and female and insisted on “partnerships of equals” even amid every other challenge they faced.

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      • It was imperative at the time for women to walk with confidence and empower themselves in a society that deemed women as incapable, less capable, or inferior. Anna Julia Cooper is just one example of a woman who was able to brave the remarkable challenge of trying to change a society that resisted change.

        I find “but as complements in one necessary and symmetric whole” to be a great statement that supports the idea that men and women all compliment each other into a symmetric whole. The word symmetric sort of gives the idea that both men and women contribute equally and work equally, which to me, means that both men and women are just as capable.

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      • It was imperative at the time for women to walk with confidence and empower themselves in a society that deemed women as incapable, less capable, or inferior. Anna Julia Cooper is just one example of a woman who was able to brave the remarkable challenge of trying to change a society that resisted change.

        I find “but as complements in one necessary and symmetric whole” to be a great statement that supports the idea that men and women all compliment each other into a symmetric whole. The word symmetric sort of gives the idea that both men and women contribute equally and work equally, which to me, means that both men and women are just as capable.

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  2. Literature from Maria Stewart interested me because, she uplifted black women. She did this by referring them as the “daughters of Africa”. Interesting because I feel like once womanism came to United States the root, of where they came from was gone. There was no Africa roots because African people were oppressed and could not be themselves. I like how Maria uplifted the black women and at the same time challenged black men to stand up for black woman, and challenge oppression. Another literature piece that was also interesting was, “Dialectics of black male and female relationships, that said men and women need to have better relationships with one another. The issue is much more deeper than society, blacks need to fix their internal problems before they can have good relationships with other people.

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    • I also liked how Maria uplifted black women and challenged back men to stand up for black women. I feel like we need that today. We always see black women in the front lines marching and fighting for black men but when it comes to black women, black men are silent. It should go hand in hand, black men and black women protecting each other, standing up for each other, and fighting for each other.

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  3. I’m starting to comprehend the deep influence of the ancient African cultures that flourished for so many thousands of years and bestowed ways of thinking that continue to make sense today. Although the term Womanism wasn’t coined until the 1980s, it seems to be a renewal of concepts formulated in Oda Ifa of Yorubaland and the Maatian religious precepts of Kemet. The idea that the Divine included both male and female qualities, that one was not elevated above the other, and that male and female complemented each other to form a whole, each equally possessing dignity and divinity, is such a peaceful and constructive way of envisioning the world. Dr. Karenga affirms that these principles of equality were explicit in the Sebait, the books of ethical instruction, and “gave the ancient Egyptian woman a status for above women of other ancient societies such as Babylonia, Israel, Greece and Rome” (269). Even throughout the Holocaust of enslavement, these principles, which would come to be known as Womanist, would endure and find new voices to transmit them, such as Maria Stewart in the nineteenth century and then Anna Julia Cooper in the early twentieth century. It’s a testament to the strength of Womanism that the principles reflowered in the modern era even amid other struggles for liberation.

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    • Hello SM,
      I also found interesting the concepts of Spiritually representation and how ancient African civilizations managed to achieve this level of representation, where the men and women are both equal and equally represented down to the spiritual core.

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  4. This section of chapter 6 is something I really liked reading about. Hearing about Anna Julia Copper and Maria Stewart really amazed because I’ve never heard of them before which is kind of upsetting being that they played an important role in Black womanism. Both of them encouraged other Black women to fight for equality, women’s liberation and against oppression.

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    • I like chapter 6 because of the word Liberation, liberation plays a great deal because if there wasn’t

      equal treatment, that would lead to oppression which would ultimately lead to riots and so on. so

      there needs to be equal treatment.

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    • Hello Melody,
      As you mention in your post I also did not know about these two incredible women. I also learned their important role in History and the great motivation they are for not only black women but all women. Stewarts calls for black people to resist slavery, oppression, and exploitation were radical. And she did not influence black women but she influence all black people.

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  5. Chapter 6 was very interesting, obviously Black sociology is dealing with Black human beings living

    in the community. Chapter 6 also compared and contrast race between black people and white people.

    Liberation for Black people as they were treated unfairly and want equal treatment, and Oppression

    for whites because they were in control and were basically seen as superior and treated the Blacks

    unfairly.

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  6. I wish the chapter would have gone into more details when it came to Anna Julia Cooper. When she stated “there is a feminine as well as masculine side to truth, that these are related, not as inferior or superior, not as better or worse, not as weaker or stronger, but as complements-complements in one necessary and symmetric whole” I completely agree with her. For so long the male species has been deemed superior, and women have had to fight for rights that men never had to fight for. It was incredibly harder for black women, they were fighting racism and equality. Even now in this day and age black women are being paid less than Men and white women.

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    • @ Joyce i agree with you .. i never knew about this lady.. I guess thanks to help we are in school and receive practical education as a black person … thank you for sharing your thoughts

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    • I was also so intrigued by the two women highlighted in this chapter (Anna Julia Cooper and Maria Stewart) and googled them to get some more information – one cool thing I learned is that she’s the only woman quoted in the current US Passport (or at least that was the case as late as 2019). Either way, pretty awesome, and here’s the quote:
      “The cause of freedom is not the case of a race or a sect or a party or a class – it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.”

      Extraordinary woman in history!

      -Julie W.

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  7. In this week’s lecture two names that stand out for me were Anna Julia Cooper and Maria Stewards. Cooper was not only an equator but she was also an activist, one of her earliest books is an analysation of the unique situation of Black women in the United States. She offers a clear understanding and insights about sexim and secualized racism. She was involved in debates about ideas related to race, gender, progress, leadership, education, justice and rights. Based on these debates she established and co-founded an organization to promote black civil rights. She was a black feminist leader who was born into slavery and yet she uplifted and helped many black women with her work. Another admirable woman in this week’s lecture is Maria Stewards who was one of the first women to speak up about race. Stewards was also known for being the first Black American woman to write and publish a political manifesto. As we haven seen in the lectures before African Americans were oppressed to the extent that their culture and history was taken away from them as well. This created many challenges for young black women, but they rose above that and found their voice to be known as womanist. Both these women struggle for liberation and encourage black women to fight for liberation and to fight the challenges and the oppressions.

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  8. This chapter 6 is to delineate the component of a theoretical system designed to meet the needs of black people. The main task is to relate the field of sociology to an understanding of the black condition which will ultimately be applied in some effective way to the resolution of the oppressed condition of the masses of black folk.the problem we face is specifying these aspects of sociology which describe the few elements of social reality with which black people deal. Thanks to Anna Julia Cooper considers education to be the best investment for African American prosperity, and cites the African Methodist Church as making great headway with its institutions of learning. Cooper believes that students should receive practical education that will enable them to earn a living, and only those students who show special aptitude or desire should be educated more thoroughly in the humanities.

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  9. Chapter 6 discusses the ideology applicable to all women of African descent. It describes the experiences, struggles, needs, and desires of Africana women. it’s very interesting seeing the description of both a masculine and feminine point of view to Africana studies.

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    • Neyfi
      I am glad I read this chapter. These two men were song strong Black women. It shows where the black woman gets her courage from.. I especially like how they challenged the men black men in particular to act politically and to confront the order.

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  10. I really enjoyed this section of the chapter (as a woman) because it highlights and pays true respect to the vital role that women play in any movement, and most particularly Black women. I really enjoyed reading about Anna Julia Cooper, and especially Maria Stewart, who called “on women to distinguish themselves as daughters of Africa”, giving them a direct and customized role in the broader practice of sankofa, to “dare struggle and greatness”. I also love how she enforces her womanistic viewpoint by questioning the religious binding put on women, “suggesting Paul’s admonition of silence and submission is not to be observed”.
    She also called on both black men AND women to “enter the field of action” in “the struggle for freedom and justice”. This is important again, because she’s reminding women of the agency they inherently possessed, whether they have activated it or not, to be an equally vital piece of any fight whose outcome affects their potential to live peacefully and happily.

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    • Hey Julie,

      I enjoyed reading this as well, it opened my eyes to all the information I didn’t know about Women Studies/Womanist. I especially found the information on the different types of womanism very interesting and informative.

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  11. Women equally is a major issue that has plagued our civilizations, we often see women misrepresented or not represented all in certain aspect of sociality like public offices for example. One of the most impressive concepts of African civilization was the way they constructed a society that was equal for from the weakest to the most powerful and saw women as they are equal. The concepts of Husitic or Maatian which sees men and women equal spiritual, moral and social status. The divine inclusiveness of not have a god that is made in men’s imagine but a god that represents men and women equally.

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  12. As a woman of color I did enjoy reading this chapter it brings awareness as to the role woman plays in our civilization.
    I have never heard of Anna Julia Cooper nor even Maria Stewart until reading this chapter.. I admire how Ms. Cooper was brave enough to criticize sexism, classism and racism. I even admire her more on her stance that” there is a feminine as well as a masculine side to the truth.” Coopers challenge to the black man to build partnership of equals in love and struggle for liberation was rather interesting since it shows that black women has come along way and will continue to fight for liberation. Maria Stewart got by it seems like by using biblical language to express her chide towards slavery and racism.. I just love how these two women challenged black men as in Miss Stewart challenging them to act politically and confront the established order she wanted equality she wanted not only men but both men and woman to enter in to the struggle for freedom and justice.

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    • I also never hear Anna Julia Cooper or Maria Stewart before this. I feel like they did so much and don’t receive the recognition they deserve.

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    • Hi Diana,

      So very well said. I could not agree with you more. I too felt liberated to be a women of color and and exploring the words of these two women. I loved the challenge and power they possessed. I did not know much about this prior to this reading but I am happy that I have had the opportunity to read it.

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  13. My minor is women’s studies. I’ve learned so many things but this was by far the most interesting. Equality is a barrier within society, back then and I feel like even more now. As a woman I do feel like we are underrepresented in society. It was great to see how African civilizations created a community where equality was shared among men and women. How they emphasized social and spiritual status. I want to dig deeper and want to know how this plays a role in religions such as Christianity and Islam. What changed? In these two religions men are seen to be the highest power giving them pronouns in holy text; “he, him” Although the religions don’t directly oppress women, they have a generally belittling feel about the woman community. What about the Eve’s Gene?

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  14. I would like to talk about the view of relationships between white people and black people from a part of The Death of White Sociology. Before I begin, it just negatively amazes me how people could be so stubborn and ignorant back in the day on the topic of race relations.

    Back in the day, most people held widely different viewpoints than the general consensus in today’s world on the nature of relationships between the different races. For instance, many noted the repugnance from white to black people and from black to white people. Some deemed this the natural order and that this is a result of physical differences. One individual, N.S. Shaler, a former dean at Harvard University, believed “the only possible relationship between men of two different races was where one race enslaved the other” (120). In my opinion, this just shows how people were willing to believe that contempt of others was natural and the only way people could interact.

    Other individuals, groups, sociologists, investigators believed similar ideas too, such as the idea that it “would be impossible to raise the Black to the level of the white” (121) because of the great differences between the two races. Personally, I’m baffled that so many people back then could not discern possible reasons why, such as unfair treatment or stereotyping. I guess it could be because kids were raised to carry on the traditions and ideas of parents/elders and as a result, many ended up continuing the cycle of discrimination and hatred, believing it to be the natural order.

    Another viewpoint back in the day was that black people held contempt for white people because white people were superior overall. They used examples of poverty, filth, and lack of ability as arguments to the idea that blacks are naturally inferior. John Van Erie stated “The Negro isolated by himself, seems utterly incapable of transmitting anything whatsoever to the succeeding generation” (121). Van Erie also listed achievements of the human race and didn’t add a single black contribution.

    In this class, we have learned a lot about ancient black societies and modern societies, and we know that truthfully, black societies have provided a lot to the world in terms of advancement, philosophies, sciences, etc. It’s unfortunate that many people viewed blacks as incapable and as people who did not contribute.

    This PDF fascinated me because it talked about many ways in which blacks were viewed and how the relationship between blacks and white may have been perceived by many. I just wanted to highlight these points above because it demonstrates the racism and brainwashing society had to completely exclude black people as contributors or pioneers of society—not to mention the idea that we were naturally inferior by what. . . by imposed conditions that we had little ability to control/alter?

    This may seem harsh, but it was a major era of ignorance back in these times, and I am just glad we have gotten to a point where we all, as a society, have been able to identify mistakes, acknowledge others, and become advocates for equality in all aspects, including recognition.

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  15. You know I regrettably never really got into Women activism. This chapter opened up so much to me its hard to describe it but I’ll try my best. Reading about women activist in this part of the chapter, two women popped out at me. Maria Stewart and Anna Julia Cooper. Maria Stewart for her brilliant way of stating what women should be doing at that time Anna Julia Cooper for finding out that women are a key part in gaining an ideal world for womanhood and manhood. Anna Julia Cooper had the idea that women need to engage in the struggle and carry pride in being a women because in that time it was a privilege to be a woman. Maria Stewart what I likes about her was that she brought up the fact that not many women are doing things that will set examples for the next generation. I liked this because it called women into action to fight the struggle for women’s rights.

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    • Hey E.S, I agree with you. This chapter definitely gave the spotlight to very important activist that fought for the rights of women. I felt so ignorant not knowing much about them because they are important figure that I never heard of until now.

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    • I agree with you because as a women we usually aren’t proud of some things. It can be discouraging to have everyone betting against us. However, that alone should make us feel even more empowered that we have that ability to make others feel threatened enough that they try to discourage us and not always give us credit. Being a black woman in America can be overwhelming at times but the history of our greatness is astounding.

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  16. In the second half of chapter 6, I learned the definition and the goals of Black Sociology. Black Sociology is the study of the construction and relation of the Black community. Few of the aims Black Sociology had set for themselves was to rescue Black life from the racist interpretations as well as discovering, developing and revealing possibilities of social change for both Black Communities and the larger society. I also learned about the term ghettoization, which means people don’t have access to opportunities such as jobs and being able to take care of their families due to their communities situations. This lead to the increase of poverty.

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  17. In chapter 6 being introduced to Anna Julia Cooper was great because she didn’t see man and woman separate but an equal while. When she states, “There is a feminine as well as masculine side to truth, that these are related, not as inferior or superior, not as better or worse, not as weaker or stronger, but as complements-complements in one necessary and symmetric whole.” I agreed with her and what I took from it is society always sees women as inferior to men just as they see blacks inferior to whites. This isn’t true at all we are all equal and in many ways we balance each other out. It reminds me of the saying, “behind every great man there is a great woman” because they can balance each other out and learn from each other. I also believe these struggles make it twice as harder for black women because not only are the seen as inferior due to race they are even more inferior due to gender. This is troubling even within the black community when black women support black men just to be belittled by them.

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  18. I really enjoyed the over all focus of Chapter six. I felt honored and powerful to be a women further more a black women. I feel like the chapter did shed light on how important the roll of a women really is.

    Both Anna Julia Cooper and Maria Stewart stood out to me for their bold points of view, intelligence, and bravery.

    Overall I feel like the community allowed women to be just as important and equal as men.

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    • A battle still being fought today. I love learning of women, especially women of color, being the voice of their generation, speaking up for their rights and the rights of others. The strength and capacity of a BIPOC woman is unmatched in my opinion.

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  19. Dr. Karenga notes in the textbook that the four basic connections that plague male/female relationships are the cash connection, the flesh connection, the force connection, and the dependency connection. The cash connection touches upon the roles both men and women play in relation to money and material validation. The flesh connection is the objectification of male and female bodies. The force connection it said to rise out of the violence and oppressive character of society, whoever controls the means to satisfy the other controls that person. Dependency connection forces gender norms or gender roles of dependency on women.

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