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Black History Month: Combahee River Collective

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combaheeOn our third Friday, RHAP’s #BlackHistoryMonthFeature focuses on the radical, lesbian, black feminist organization Combahee River Collective. The group, founded by sisters Barbara and Beverly Smith and Demita Frazier in 1974 was named after the historic raid on the Combahee River, where Harriet Tubman led a campaign in the rescue of over 700 slaves in nearby plantations in the height of the Civil War. It holds the distinction of being the only military campaign led by a woman. Influenced by the National Black Feminists Organization (NBFO), the grassroots organization is most known for their 1977 manifesto that illustrates what we know today to be intersectionality (coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989).

The introduction of the manifesto reads “During that time we have been involved in the process of defining and clarifying our politics, while at the same time doing political work within our own group and in coalition with other progressive organizations and movements. The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives.”

They continue to lay out the foundation of the discussion, outlining what black feminism is, the politics around it, the struggles with grassroots organization around it and the issues and practices they face. Intersectionality, and the full compass of a person’s being, from race, gender, sexual orientation to class, is reproductive justice, and you cannot prioritize one aspect and ignore the others and be a true champion of the movement.

 

Click here to read their full manifesto.

 

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