Human Rights and Womens Rights

Human Rights and Womens Rights


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



 the white men let it be clearly known  . . . one or the other: either white women are given

the vote or Black men are given the vote, but not both (all women and Black men).

Thus, the lines between the two camps were clearly drawn by the common oppressor



Books by Louis Reyes Rivera

Who Pays The Cost (1978) / This One For You (1983) / Scattered Scripture

 Bum Rush the Page (co-editor) / The Bandana Republic (co-editor)

Sancocho: A Book of Nuyorican Poetry by Shaggy Flores (edited by Louis Reyes Rivera)

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Human Rights and Women’s Rights

Douglass and Stanton; Obama and Clinton

A Conversation with Louis Reyes Rivera

“Rights vs. Rights: An Improbable Collision Course” By Mark Leibovich


The above NYTimes article explores Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama as representatives ostensibly of the women’s and racial rights movements, and seeing them in light of the 19th century controversy between Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frederick Douglass during the passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

You might find the comments of the article an interesting contrast to what Wilson J. Moses, the historian has written:

Douglass’ relationships with white women were not without troubles of another sort. In 1865, he was angered by what Waldo Martin has called the “blatant racism” of Elizabeth Stanton. Stanton was incensed by the denial of women’s voting rights [15th Amendment], and protested that this denial placed white women on a level “classed with idiots, lunatics, and Negroes.” This statement, and others that were even more offensive, would seem to indicate that Stanton saw black people as inferior to white women. Douglass took exception to being classed with idiots and lunatics, but the friendship apparently endured, and Stanton was a well-wisher at the time of Douglass’ second marriage.

It is not difficult to understand why Douglass played up to white feminists after the demise of the abolitionist movement, for in them he found a receptive audience for his writings and speeches. Within this view, his marriage to a white feminist was not only an affair of the heart, but a significant political move. Black men and women were not well-positioned to help him maintain public visibility once the abolitionist movement had run its course; the women’s rights movement, headed by white women, still offered him a forum. Another way of seeing it was that in his first marriage he made an alliance with a free black woman who could assist him in his flight to freedom. In his second marriage, he cemented ties with his new audience, which was largely composed of white feminists. (Creative Conflict  , 51).

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Other Stanton comments:

Shall American statesmen … so amend their constitutions as to make their wives and mothers the political inferiors of unlettered and unwashed ditch-diggers, bootblacks, butchers and barbers, fresh from the slave plantations of the South? NYTimes

To which Douglass responded:

When women, because they are women, are hunted down through the cities of New York and New Orleans; when they are dragged from their houses and hung from lampposts; when their children are torn from their arms and their brains dashed out upon the pavement; when they are objects of insult and rage at every turn; when they are in danger of having their homes burnt down… then they will have an urgency to obtain the ballot equal to our own. NYTimes

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The legislation passed but it was not enforced and it was not passed giving “blacks the vote”; the 15th Amendment was passed giving black men the same voting rights as white men, which is very different from the version repeated by the NYTimes article. That the Amendment was sexist is beyond question, for black women were not included along with white women. But we know that white women had the vote (1920) long before the franchise was secured for black women (1965).

You may note also that some black commentators and some black congressmen felt that Bill Clinton’s pre-New Hampshire remarks about Obama were racially questionable. He referred to Obama as a “kid” and thought Obama dealt in “fairy tale” politics.

But Mr. Obama, absent of white wife, seems to be in similar circumstances as Mr. Douglass during his post-Emancipation years. Mr. Obama has expressed a desire to be a “Joshua.” From what Moses has written, Douglass failed in that role altogether, but was rather more successful in efforts at “self-presentation” or “self-promotion.” But like Douglass, Obama  seems unable to escape identification with racial politics. Whether that American reality will sidetrack him in winning the Democratic nomination or winning the presidency holds us all in suspense.

You may also find John Maxwell’s questions about the New Hampshire vote of interest Character is the real issue —Rudy

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Rivera Responds

Just a quick note, Rudy… Elizabeth Stanton & Fred. Douglass’ points of contention had a context that is just as telling as what is here presented about both the Feminist and the Human Rights Activist.

The issue regarding the 15th Amendment was whether or not it would be universal or limited to men (therefore, addressing the rights of Black men). At first, Stanton, Susan Anthony, Douglass and company were pushing for the universal suffrage issue, across the board. They supported each other during abolition and wanted to support each other on voting rights.

However, the white men let it be clearly known that they weren’t havin’ it . . . one or the other: either white women are given the vote or Black men are given the vote, but not both (all women and Black men). Thus, the lines between the two camps were clearly drawn by the common oppressor, and both oppressed camps (if you will) were forced by condition to plead their own respective cause(s).

That’s the context in which Douglass ends up bowing out of the women’s suffrage movement and focuses on the 15th Amendment to grant the franchise to Black men. That’s also the context in which the (psychotic) arguments Stanton poses in defense of “white women’s rights.”

Thus, both of those old metaphors apply here: crabs in a barrel and divide and conquer. You should note that abolition does not come about without that coalition of white women activists, Black Folks’ activists and enlightened white men (i.e., — don’t laugh — radical republicans). Nor does the underground railroad work without that coalition. Later—Louis.

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Rudy Responds

They supported each other during abolition and wanted to support each other on voting rights.—Louis  

You are indeed right about the importance of context. But I think you have over-simplified the context. You will allow, however, that the 19th century feminists did not approach abolition in the same manner or from the same place as black abolitionists. That is the point that Douglass makes (see quote below).

When women, because they are women, are hunted down through the cities of New York and New Orleans; when they are dragged from their houses and hung from lampposts; when their children are torn from their arms and their brains dashed out upon the pavement; when they are objects of insult and rage at every turn; when they are in danger of having their homes burnt down… then they will have an urgency to obtain the ballot equal to our own

One was concerned about the freedom of blacks because they were human beings; the other was primarily concerned about black freedom because of the impact that slavery had on white women, influenced by Victorian morality. One must state also that white women too were part and parcel of the oppressor classes. They were seeking rights within the oppressing classes. Blacks were not a part of the oppressing classes, yes, they were receiving democratic rights denied to members of the oppression. Only from this contradictory context can Stanton’s class and racial vehemence with respect to freedmen makes sense.  

Shall American statesmen … so amend their constitutions as to make their wives and mothers the political inferiors of unlettered and unwashed ditch-diggers, bootblacks, butchers and barbers, fresh from the slave plantations of the South? NYTimes

What I suggest is that there were fractures at the very beginning of the Abolitionist Movement, involving race, class, and gender differences, among white and black abolitionists. And there was probably some racial overlap with respect to class and gender biases. It did not occur simply at post-Emancipation.  Douglass certainly sustained the morality of the bourgeois household. Take note of his Anacostia him and the Master’s bedroom, with the bedrooms of his wife across the hall. As you know, Douglass and others also split with Garrison on the abolitionist issue, as early as the 1840s, and Douglass struck out on his own, establishing, his own abolitionist paper the North Star

It was not simply a divide and conquer maneuver or manipulation by puppeteering white male politicians. The women’s issue was a deep cultural Anglo-American issue, one that could not be resolved in the milieu of the 19th century. The coalition indeed became unglued (to some extent), but these were long-standing fractures based on racial, gender, and class biases and interests.

For Douglass if there were a choice of a bill for equality of black males and white males (15th Amendment) and no franchise bill, on an evolutionary basis (some political and social progress, rather than no progress), he would sensibly choose the former.

We know Stanton rejected Douglass’ evolutionary perspective and rejected it on a racist (and class) basis. Racial (as well as class) supremacist views among 19th century feminists were there, even during the Abolitionist Movement, not merely post-Emancipation. That was the status quo.

Douglass’ views in some sense were indeed contradictory, for he too had supported women’s causes, like Stanton. His reconciliation was a compromise with the status quo, which was the only way to get the bill passed to secure black freedom. 

His support of feminists continued, however, even to the point of marrying a feminist. Douglass was concerned about securing black freedom post Emancipation; that goal was secondary in Stanton’s politics, whose politics emphasized the rights of white women of her class.—Rudy

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Rivera Responds

It’s not OVER simplifying that I’m doing. It’s pointing to the inherent contradiction that had surfaced at the point at which the issue of who gets included in the 15th amendment before it is finalized and voted upon and written into law.

They were mutually supportive of each other up until their “interests” were in conflict. Douglass’ argument (however correct) comes into play because the feminists argued against “exclusively male voting rights.” Thus, pushing the “race card” among whites, which Douglass takes up in his retort.

My point is that there was a moment when white male domination was the issue around which both women and the newly emancipated communities could have changed the entire course, but chose instead to draw lines between one another on the basis of self interest. Had white feminists not let themselves get taken there by the fact that white males didn’t want to hear UNIVERSAL franchise, we would have had a different history. Instead, she drew lines (in light of her station and interests), and the collaboration between white left and Black aspirants came to an end. However fragile that collaboration was, the move to draw a line between the two camps [was fostered] by the puppeteer in charge of it all (what issues are acceptable is a white male prerogative here as it is throughout the Americas).

My other point was/is that your commentary kept the lines drawn without the context that would allow your reader to see why What happened. Same thing happened to the Black Power Movement of the 60s, whereby the reemergence of a white activist feminist left was pushed at the expense of both the Civil Rights aftermath and the Human Rights movement. So long as antiwar kept both camps on the same side, there was possibility. The moment the war is no longer an issue, the disparate left regained its disparity and we’re back again to 1865 and the passage of which amendment. By the way, except for the real left, all of what we’re talking about here is patchwork reformism that does nothing to change or replace the system. Like Obama, assuming he might win on the ticket—he takes an oath of office and declares that he will preserve and protect (not change) the conditions that exist at the point at which he takes office. Later—Louis

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Rudy Responds

all of what we’re talking about here is patchwork reformism—Louis

Of course, you are right. On the basic issues we agree. . . But I still wonder whether we can project back into the past the left wing politics of the 20th century. Many of these women groups of the 19th century probably are better portrayed as Victorian civilizationists, rather strait laced, and subject on the whole to the same social and political biases as white men—their husbands and their fathers. They could not have been more than they were. They were neither Marxists nor bohemians. A four-year bloody war was not fought to get at a cultural revolution between white men and white women in which they would have equal rights among them. It was in the context of abolitionism that the women’s suffrage movement gained power. But these middle-class suffragettes were primarily single issue reformists on behalf of middle-class white women. Ida B. Wells complained about their exclusion of black women in their white middle-class groups.

She too had a controversial encounter with WCTU feminists:

Between 1890 and 1894, as calls to protect the honor of white womanhood abounded in an American society ripe with conflict over race, gender and morality, there erupted a controversy over lynching between social reformer Frances Willard, the president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells. Ida B. Wells vehemently protested lynching, arguing that the justification for lynching predicated on the black rape of white women was a myth created by white men as an excuse to lynch black men in attempts to regain political and economic power in the post-Civil War era” (Ida B. Wells, Frances Willard and the Lynching Controversy, 1890-1894)

My point is that there was a moment when white male domination was the issue around which both women and the newly emancipated communities could have changed the entire course.–Louis   Historically, I think that was an impossibility—of middle-class white women walking hand in hand with the former degraded slaves as equals. Of the benighted “emancipated communities” you over-estimate their power and influence. At the point of the passage of the 15th they were powerless and helpless. There were moreover too many social, cultural, and political differences between middle-class white women and the “emancipated communities” for what you suggest to have occurred. There was no substantial “white left” among white men or white women to change culturally relations among men and women in the political arena or otherwise.   The same is true, I suspect, of Hispanics and American blacks because of what some call “black-brown competition.” But not only political differences but also cultural and racial differences. “Segura agrees with Grofman that it’s dangerous to assume the two groups will complement each other at the ballot box.” People often have very narrow and low visions in politics. 

Check Minority vote moves center stage.

Middle-class white women and the degraded southern blacks did not complement each other either, and these freedmen probably did not even complement middle class Frederick Douglass or middle class Alexander Crummell. It is not so much of a political betrayal but where people see there their narrow interests lie and the possibilities of achieving them. White women got the vote (1920) practically long before blacks did (1965). I suspect the issues of Hispanics, many of whom identify with the white middle-class, will be long resolved before those of American blacks.—Rudy

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Rivera Responds

Five quick points:

(1) You write: But we know that white women had the vote (1920) long before the franchise was secured for black women (1965).

Not to be picky or naive . . . all women were granted the right to vote (1919), constitutionally, as all men were so granted (15th Amendment). The trick to appreciate is how each state (that old dog, States’ Rights) is permitted to determine how and in what manner of detail. The reason for the 1965 voting rights act (which is still not written into law save by Executive Action and thus, still renewable every 20 years—lest we forget that one) was to close all theretofore loopholes that states and counties had thrown into the game (poll tax, literacy, proof of citizenship, etc.). Like the thievery of the two Bush elections (2000; 2004), with a congress that doesn’t know how to close those chard card loopholes, and obviously doesn’t know that IT is responsible for enforcing the laws that are, we’re all being disfranchised.

(2) You write: But like Douglass, Obama  seems unable to escape identification with racial politics. Whether that American reality will sidetrack him in winning the Democratic nomination or winning the presidency holds us all in suspense.

As much as he may want to, no, he can’t escape that bad boy . . . (again, it’s ingrained into the culture, into the very psyche of everyone we’re likely to see and touch or refrain from recognizing and embracing). That’s all part of the social psychosis we inherit here. But it’s not that he’s “unable to”; it’s that corporate media has orders to carry out against any semblance of representational government; and they do it wantonly. Even Hillary, poor dear, gives it away when she pleads with such words as “electability.” 

I find it most interesting that in this north american culture, we still use the word “race” even when we mean “caste” and then ignore the value of “caste” as appropriately describing the concrete condition.

You write: What I suggest is that there were fractures and different perspectives at the very beginning of the Abolitionist Movement, involving race, class, and gender, among white and black abolitionists.

Of course, those fractures were there, as they remain with us now. But we must guard against viewing the past, not from the standpoint of the 20th or 21st Century, but from the standpoint that the past too must be as perfect and perfectly (re)fashioned and (re)interpreted [isn’t that what people really mean by “revisionism”] as our aspirations to make things whole again. Whenever we look back, we are challenged to do so in a “like it is” manner in order to best understand both the context and the subtleties that mark the given (in this case, the white feminism vs. Black aspirations), in addition to “what it is” or what it looks like.

You write: The same is true, I suspect, of Hispanics and American blacks because of what some call “black-brown competition.” But not only political differences but also cultural and racial differences.”Segura agrees with Grofman that it’s dangerous to assume the two groups will complement each other at the ballot box” (Minority vote moves center stage). People often have very narrow and low vision in politics. 

This is a different arena with a different set of issues. First, it’s the terms, the language that we are given to use. Both Black and Brown are from the viewpoints of whites—those are their designations for the rest of us. Since it’s theirs, not ours, then it’s false, given that both terms are used by the other in order to measure the degrees by which it is determined by “them” how human we should be viewed. It’s a false paradigm, all the way down the line. It assumes that Black folk don’t speak Spanish or are not culturally a significant part of what we are given to describe as Latino culture.

But from where comes Samba and Mambo and Afro-Cuban Jazz? How do we explain an Afro-Mexican grouping of better than 10% of Mexico’s demographics or the fact that while there are roughly 40 million African Americans living in the U.S., there are 80 million Afro-Brazilians on some corner of the planet we tend to ignore? Or even how Cesar Chavez becomes a “colored” politician born again as a Bolivarista (Bolivar’s mother was more a mulatto than was Alexander Hamilton’s mom) with a penchant for pronouncing his African connectives. 

Yes, the Mexicans among us do include white creoles who can gain some semblance of power, but only as subservient to white male anglos. And, yes, the Mexican demographics also include African mixtures that they are as of late more belligerent about publicly pronouncing. There’s even an Afro-Peruvian cultural movement going on. The thing to understand here is that (a) Spaniards developed their caste system based on colored gradations, and (b) our so-called “better representatives” do like Michael Jackson did, culturally and politically, not just surgically. When we buy into someone’s definition and game parameters (a la the capitalist and the racial skin games), we are playing within someone else’s dictates. When we define ourselves and on our own terms, the rules are changed, as is the agenda items.

I disagree with your shout-out to both Segura and Grofman. There was a time in NYC politics wherein “Blacks and Puerto Ricans” formed most necessary coalitional alignments. That’s how we got “ethnic studies” into the colleges (New York actually affecting the entire country, in whatever degrees) and more “colored students” into the colleges.

As to interest and whose interests, we should bear this in mind: so long as there’s some “you” who controls the purse strings, that “you” can determine the extent and degree to which “we” can gain access to “your” funds. But when “we” move to control those same and “our” purse strings, something else happens. Among them, we learn to take each other into account.

King Solomon had seven hundred wives; each of them connected him to a much needed ally. Under his reign, Israel remained sovereign. The moment he and his wives are no longer living in the palace, Israel is defeated directly because all of those alliances have been effectively split up. [That, by the way, is the secret behind the metaphor Jesus used regarding the Samaritans—and the definition of “neighbor.” Northern Israelites (Samaria) were once the natural allies to Southern Israelites (Judeans), but because difference was measured and more pronounced than commonality, they became enemies (competitors) to one another, just like urban street gangs.]

No people have ever won a war without allies. Not even Alexander the Great. And that’s a point that both Segura and Grofman miss when looking at the imposed categories of Black and Brown. Later—Louis

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Women Are Never Front-Runners

Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House. This country is way down the list of countries electing women and, according to one study, it polarizes gender roles more than the average democracy.

That’s why the Iowa primary was following our historical pattern of making change. Black men were given the vote a half-century before women of any race were allowed to mark a ballot, and generally have ascended to positions of power, from the military to the boardroom, before any women (with the possible exception of obedient family members in the latter).

If the lawyer described above had been just as charismatic but named, say, Achola Obama instead of Barack Obama, her goose would have been cooked long ago. Indeed, neither she nor Hillary Clinton could have used Mr. Obama’s public style — or Bill Clinton’s either — without being considered too emotional by Washington pundits.

So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one? The reasons are as pervasive as the air we breathe: because sexism is still confused with nature as racism once was; because anything that affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects “only” the female half of the human race; because children are still raised mostly by women (to put it mildly) so men especially tend to feel they are regressing to childhood when dealing with a powerful woman; because racism stereotyped black men as more “masculine” for so long that some white men find their presence to be masculinity-affirming (as long as there aren’t too many of them); and because there is still no “right” way to be a woman in public power without being considered a you-know-what.—Gloria Steinem

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Going Old South on Obama

Gloria Steinem . . . Her remark that black men received the vote “fifty years before women,” in a Times Op-Ed (Jan.8) which some say contributed to Obama’s defeat in New Hampshire, ignores the fact that black men were met by white terrorism, including massacres, and economic retaliation when attempting to exercise the franchise.

She and her followers, who’ve spent thousands of hours in graduate school, must have gotten all of their information about Reconstruction from Gone With the Wind, where moviegoers are asked to sympathize with a proto-feminist, Scarlett O’Hara, who finally has to fend for herself after years of being doted upon by the unpaid household help. Booker T. Washington, an educator born into slavery, said that young white people had been waited on so that after the war they didn’t know how to take care of themselves and Mary Chesnutt, author of The Civil War Diaries, and a friend of Confederate president Jefferson Davis’s family, said that upper class southern white women were so slave dependent that they were “indolent.”

Steinem and her followers should read, Redemption, The Last Battle Of The Civil War, by Nicholas Lemann, which tells the story about how “in 1875, an army of white terrorists in Mississippi led a campaign to ‘redeem’ their state—to abolish with violence and murder if need be, the newly won civil rights of freed slaves and blacks.” Such violence and intimidation was practiced all over the south sometimes resulting in massacres. One of worst massacres of black men occurred at Colfax, Louisiana, in 1873. Their crime? Attempting to exercise the voting rights awarded to them “fifty years,” before white women received theirs. Lemann writes, “Burning Negroes” met “savage and hellish butchery.

“They were all killed, unarmed, at close range, while begging for mercy. Those who tried to escape, were overtaken, mustered in crowds, made to stand around, and, while in every attitude of humiliation and supplication, were shot down and their bodies mangled and hacked to hasten their death or to satiate the hellish malice of their heartless murderers, even after they were dead.

“White posses on horseback rode away from the town, looking for Negroes who had fled, so they could kill them.”

Elsewhere in the south, during the Confederate Restoration, black politicians, who were given the right to vote,” fifty years before white women” were removed from office by force, many through violence. In Wilmington, North Carolina, black men, who “received the vote fifty years before white women,” the subject of Charles Chesnutt’s great novel, The Marrow of Tradition:

On Thursday, November 10, 1898, Colonel Alfred Moore Waddell, a Democratic leader in Wilmington, North Carolina mustered a white mob to retaliate for a controversial editorial written by Alexander Manly, editor of the city’s black newspaper, the Daily Record. The mob burned the newspaper’s office and incited a bloody race riot in the city. By the end of the week, at least fourteen black citizens were dead, and much of the city’s black leadership had been banished. This massacre further fueled an ongoing statewide disfranchisement campaign designed to crush black political power. Contemporary white chronicles of the event, such as those printed in the Raleigh News and Observer and Wilmington’s The Morning Star, either blamed the African American community for the violence or justified white actions as necessary to keep the peace. African American writers produced their own accounts-including fictional examinations-that countered these white supremacist claims and highlighted the heroic struggles of the black community against racist injustice.

Black congressmen, who, as a rule, were better educated than their white colleagues were expelled from Congress.

Either Gloria Steinem hasn’t done her homework, or as an ideologue rejects evidence that’s a Google away, and the patriarchal corporate old media, which has appointed her the spokesperson for feminism, permits her ignorance to run rampant over the emails and blogs of the nation and though this white Oprah might have inspired her followers to march lockstep behind her, a progressive like Cindy Sheehan wasn’t convinced. She called Mrs. Clinton’s crying act,” phony.” .  .  . Feminist hero, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, offended Frederick Douglass—an abolitionist woman attempted to prevent his daughter from gaining entrance to a girls’ school—when she referred to black men as “sambos.” She was an unabashed white supremacist. She said in 1867,”[w]ith the black man we have no new element in government, but with the education and elevation of women, we have a power that is to develop the Saxon race into a higher and nobler life.”

Steinem should read. Race, Rape, and Lynching by Sandra Gunning, and Angela Davis’s excellent Women, Culture, & Politics, which includes a probing examination of racism in the suffragette movement. The Times allowed only one black feminist to weigh in on Ms. Steinem’s comments about Barack Obama, and how he appealed to white men because they perceive black males as more “masculine” than they, an offensive stereotype, and one that insults the intelligence of white men, and a comment which, with hope, doesn’t reflect the depth of “progressive” women’s thought.

Do you think that the Times would offer Steinem critics like Toni Morrison Op-ed space to rebut her? Don’t count on it. The criticism of white feminism by black women has been repressed for over one hundred years (Black Women Abolitionists, A Study In Activism, 1828-1860, by Shirley J.Yee).—Ishmael Reed

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The Race and Gender Debate—Well, I mean, honestly, I’m appalled by the parallel that Ms. Steinem draws in the beginning part of the New York Times article. What she’s trying to do there is to make a claim towards sort of bringing in black women into a coalition around questions of gender and asking us to ignore the ways in which race and gender intersect. This is actually a standard problem of second-wave feminism, which, although there have been twenty-five years now—oh, going on forty years, actually, of African American women pushing back against this, have really failed to think about the ways in which trying to appropriate black women’s lives’ experience in that way is really offensive, actually. And so, when Steinem suggests, for example, in that article that Obama is a lawyer married to another lawyer and to suggest that, for example, Hillary Clinton represents some kind of sort of breakthrough in questions of gender, I think that ignores an entire history in which white women have in fact been in the White House. They’ve been there as an attachment to white male patriarchal power. It’s the same way that Hillary Clinton is now making a claim towards experience. It’s not her experience. It’s her experience married to, connected to, climbing up on white male patriarchy. This is exactly the ways in which this kind of system actually silences questions of gender that are more complicated than simply sort of putting white women in positions of power and then claiming women’s issues are cared for. Now, what I know from the work that I’ve done on the Obama campaign is that there are tens of thousands of extremely hard-working white men and women, as well as black men and women, as well as actually a huge multiracial and interethnic coalition of people working for Barack Obama. And so, for Steinem to sort of make this very clear race and gender dichotomy that she does in that New York Times op-ed piece, I think it’s the very worst of second-wave feminism. . . . .

Well, only that, I mean, I am an unmarried working mother. I certainly understand, in a very intimate way, you know, the power and the value of domestic and caretaking work. But I also know very clearly a history that I believe Steinem’s piece attempted to distort, and that is that as white women moved into the workforce, much of that caretaking work did not go to white men who sort of took up and helped out, but it fell on women of color—African American women, immigrant women—who stepped in to do much of the domestic labor and childcare provision, so that white women could in fact become a part of the workforce. So to, for example, make an argument like black men had the right to vote long before white women is to ignore that black men were then lynched regularly for any attempt to actually exercise that right. I just feel that we have got to get clear about the fact that race and gender are not these clear dichotomies in which, you know, you’re a woman or you’re black. I’m sitting here in my black womanhood body, knowing that it is more complicated than that. African American men have been complicit in the oppression of African American women. White women have been complicit in the oppression of black men and black women. Those things are true. And so, to pretend that we can somehow take them out of the conversation when a white woman runs against a black man, when she tears up at being sort of beat up by him, when her husband can come in and rally around her and suggest that we need to sort of support her because she’s having difficulties, while Barack Obama is getting death threats, basically lynching threats on him and his family, these are—for a second-wave feminist with an understanding of the complexity of American race and gender to take this kind of position in the New York Times struck me as, again, the very worst of what that feminism can offer—in other words, division. —Melissa Harris-Lacewell

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Which Womanhood?—”For too long the history of women has been a history of silence,” Clinton told the World Conference then. But almost exactly a year later, she supported her husband’s signing of the so-called Personal Responsibility Act, which successfully shifted responsibility for poverty in an affluent society off that society and onto the backs of poor mothers. Those moms barely got to say a word, while DC pols slandered and steamrollered them. Clinton writes in her autobiography Living History  that she would have opposed her husband over welfare reform if she thought it would hurt young children. (One wonders what she thinks happens to kids in poor working and over-working families.) On the campaign trail, she recalls her dedication to Marian Wright Edelman’s Children’s Defense Fund. But I can’t forget Peter Edelman’s resignation from the Department of Health and Human Services in protest. In 1996, welfare “reform” cut almost 800,000 legal immigrants off aid entirely and even denied them food stamps, but no one denies that it helped get Bill Clinton re-elected. “Welfare reform became a success for Bill” writes Hillary in Living History. It was all about politics, not poor people, said Edelman. The Nation

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For July 1st through August 31st 2011  


#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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Debt: The First 5,000 Years

By David Graeber

Before there was money, there was debt. Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter systems—to relieve ancient people from having to haul their goods to market. The problem with this version of history? There’s not a shred of evidence to support it. Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.  Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it. Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history—as well as how it has defined human history, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy.  

Economist Glenn Loury  /Criminalizing a Race

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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updated 24 February 2008




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