The African American Feminists In My World

Dr. Cheryl Hicks

Dr. Hicks was my honors thesis advisor, I worked with her during the summer through the Charlotte Research Scholars program, and she is now my graduate advisor. Her work, (including her First book) addresses issues of race, class, and gender. Dr. Hicks makes visible the diversity in turn of the century New York and gives voice to working-class women of color. She also teaches classes about race in America here at UNCC.

I have never spoken to Dr. Hicks specifically about being a feminist; however, because of her work and because of the texts she has recommended to me, I see her as a feminist. Dr. Hicks has been an invaluable source of knowledge and advice in my life and I owe her a huge debt of gratitude. I’m sure that others here and at the previous schools she has taught at, have been similarly influenced and inspired by her work. I believe that Dr. Hicks is representative of the academic wing of intellectuals that Patricia Hill-Collins discusses as being an important part of developing the modern iteration of Black feminism.

Wanda Williams

A second powerful African American feminist inspiration in my life is my mother’s best friend, Wanda Williams. Growing up, I admired Wanda because to my eye she always seemed independent, dressed to the nines, and reliable. Whenever we, or anyone else who knew her, needed anything, Wanda was always there. She is very active in her church, Greater Young Zion Baptist Church, in Augusta, Georgia. My family, mostly women, often attends the service focused on women that the Church has after their female members return from their women’s conference. Wanda, a career woman, has been working for the same company for over thirty years.

Again, I have never spoken to Wanda about feminism or whether she considers herself to be a feminist, but I see her as one. I know that Wanda has had a powerful influence on many women’s lives, including my own, her two step-daughters, and countless friends and family members who she has helped throughout the years. As a child, Wanda was among the first African Americans to integrate the schools in the rural area of Georgia where she grew up. I interviewed her about this groundbreaking time for an oral history project I had and she emphasized that her parents always taught them that being second-class citizens was not acceptable. The local hamburger joint, for instance, would only serve black customers at the backdoor; young Wanda, however, found herself jealous of all the people who got to eat there at all, because her mother would not allow them to eat anything from a place that would not treat them as equals to their white counterparts. I believe that everyday women in the community, like Wanda, are indicative of the type of feminism that is sometimes undefined but plays, perhaps, an even more important role within the community.


4 thoughts on “The African American Feminists In My World

  1. Kate, I enjoyed reading about the women you consider to be African-American feminist in your life. I like how you used people that you personally considered to be African-American feminists, despite whether they consider themselves to be one or not. I also enjoyed how you used two different aspects, one academic and one a tad more personal. I believe the two women you used could definitely be considered African-American feminist though, especially with what they have done for you personally, and within their communities as well.

    • Thanks for your comments! One of the most interesting things, for me, about what we have read so far is Hill-Collins emphasis on how feminism and feminist intellectualism is not just some lofty academic discussion but is happening all throughout the community.

  2. I enjoyed reading your post. You know some very influential people. Their work and in the community are beneficial to our growth as African American women in our society. You are lucky to work and be around people such as your mothers best friend and Dr. HIcks. I think it is funny how many women in our society that do not classify themselves as feminist or African American feminist at that bu t the things that they part take in and what they stand for says other wise. Even n though I have not had the pleasure of meeting Dr. HIcks from what you have written she is truely and inspiration.

    • Thanks Stanasia! You’ll have to keep an eye out for Dr. Hicks around campus. If this isn’t your last semester, maybe you can even take a class with her! I don’t know exactly what she’s like as a professor, I haven’t had the chance to take any of her classes yet, but I would expect her classes are challenging as well as interesting.

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