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Feb 25, 2021
1 Min read time
The Combahee River Collective Statement
Our members-only podcast is now available to all! A People’s Anthology is a reading series of radical essays and speeches. Season one highlights six short texts related to Black liberation struggles in the U.S., from Claudia Jones to the Combahee River Collective. Find the other episodes and links to Apple, Spotify, and more here.
For the fifth episode, we sat down with Beverly Smith, one of the original members of the Combahee River Collective, and one of three co-writers of their 1977 statement. Renowned for its description of oppressions as “interlocking,” the statement serves as both an update on the “triple oppression” that Claudia Jones laid out in 1949, and as an inspiration for Kimberlé W. Crenshaw’s coining of the term “intersectionality” a decade later.
As Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor writes in How We Get Free:
It is difficult to quantify the enormity of the political contribution made by the women in the collective, because so much of their analysis is taken for granted in feminist politics today—especially their description of oppressions as happening ‘simultaneously,’ thus creating new measures of oppression and inequality. In other words, Black women could not quantify their oppression only in terms of sexism or racism, or of homophobia experienced by Black lesbians. They were not ever a single category, but it was the merging or enmeshment of those identities that compounded how Black women experienced oppression.
Beverly Smith is a Black feminist health advocate, writer, academic, theorist and activist.
Note: A transcript of this episode is available here.
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