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

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9780822350330: 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 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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About the Author:

Erik S. McDuffie is Associate Professor of African American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Review:

“Radical black women had to challenge both the CP's sexism and its racism, and McDuffie provides a judicious and finely tuned analysis of black
women's complicated relationship with the Party. . . . One of the great breakthroughs of McDuffie's book is his careful examination of personal testimonies, which like any narratives, demand analysis.” - Mary Helen Washington, Women’s Review of Books

“By the end of Sojourning for Freedom, black left feminism appears not as a reaction to Moynihan and masculinism in the 1960s, but as an intergenerational radical tradition that forged critiques of gendered racial capitalism in the previous century, before providing an influential framework for thinking about the interlocking of oppressions for our own era. But enough of this review. Go and read this very valuable book for yourself!” - John J. Munro, H-1960s, H-Net Reviews

Sojourning for Freedom is a groundbreaking monograph, especially for a historian’s first book. Based on impressive archival research as well as forty oral histories conducted by the author, this book will change the way historians conceptualize black women’s activism in the Old Left and the New Left.” - Anne Meis Knupfer, Journal of American History

Sojourning for Freedom is a fine scholarly work... McDuffie’s eloquent, but succinct, prose allows for easy reading... the book should spur penetrating discussions in undergraduate and graduate courses devoted to history, politics, women/gender studies, and sociology. Indeed, Sojourning for Freedom affords endless opportunities for students and professors alike to articulate interesting view-points about the black feminist ideology and American communism from the early through the middle twentieth century.” - Brenda I. Marshall, The Griot: The Journal of African American Studies

Sojourning for Freedom is an excellent primer on the communist party and
the Cold War in the United States as it relates to the eye-opening participation and motivations of black left feminists. It should be required reading in undergraduate and graduate courses covering this content area, as well as appealing to a general reading audience.” - Dolita Cathcart, History: Reviews of New Books

“[I]lluminate[s] the ways that gender, race, and class intersected to shape the American Left.” - Andrea Friedman, American Historical Review

Sojourning for Freedom inserts Communism into the historiography of black women’s activism. Providing a bridge between the black women’s club movement and Pan-Africanism, and later civil rights and black feminist activism, Erik S. McDuffie speaks to the historical continuity of protest strategies and concerns, such as internationalism. Drawing on his thorough research and original interviews, he makes a significant contribution toward a more complex history of black struggle.”—Kimberly Springer, author of Living for the Revolution: Black Feminist Organizations, 1968–1980

“Erik S. McDuffie does more than introduce us to a fascinating group of black left feminists in the U.S. Communist Party. He also provides a genealogy of intersectional thinking on the workings of race, class, and gender by uncovering the predecessors of black women’s movements of the 1960s and 1970s.”—Eileen Boris, co-editor of The Practice of U.S. Women’s History: Narratives, Intersections, and Dialogues

Sojourning for Freedom is a fine scholarly work... McDuffie’s eloquent, but succinct, prose allows for easy reading... the book should spur penetrating discussions in undergraduate and graduate courses devoted to history, politics, women/gender studies, and sociology. Indeed, Sojourning for Freedom affords endless opportunities for students and professors alike to articulate interesting view-points about the black feminist ideology and American communism from the early through the middle twentieth century.” (Brenda I. Marshall The Griot: The Journal of African American Studies)

Sojourning for Freedom is a groundbreaking monograph, especially for a historian’s first book. Based on impressive archival research as well as forty oral histories conducted by the author, this book will change the way historians conceptualize black women’s activism in the Old Left and the New Left.” (Anne Meis Knupfer Journal of American History)

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