Living for the Revolution

Black Feminist Organizations, 1968–1980

Living for the Revolution

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: 5 figures Published: April 2005

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, History > U.S. History

The first in-depth analysis of the black feminist movement, Living for the Revolution fills in a crucial but overlooked chapter in African American, women’s, and social movement history. Through original oral history interviews with key activists and analysis of previously unexamined organizational records, Kimberly Springer traces the emergence, life, and decline of several black feminist organizations: the Third World Women’s Alliance, Black Women Organized for Action, the National Black Feminist Organization, the National Alliance of Black Feminists, and the Combahee River Collective. The first of these to form was founded in 1968; all five were defunct by 1980. Springer demonstrates that these organizations led the way in articulating an activist vision formed by the intersections of race, gender, class, and sexuality.

The organizations that Springer examines were the first to explicitly use feminist theory to further the work of previous black women’s organizations. As she describes, they emerged in response to marginalization in the civil rights and women’s movements, stereotyping in popular culture, and misrepresentation in public policy. Springer compares the organizations’ ideologies, goals, activities, memberships, leadership styles, finances, and communication strategies. Reflecting on the conflicts, lack of resources, and burnout that led to the demise of these groups, she considers the future of black feminist organizing, particularly at the national level. Living for the Revolution is an essential reference: it provides the history of a movement that influenced black feminist theory and civil rights activism for decades to come.


“[A] superb study. . . .” — Celia Valiente, International Feminist Journal of Politics

“[A] well-researched study, grounded in strong empirical evidence, that allows us to hear the voices of African-American feminists who contributed in myriad important ways to the civil rights, black nationalist, and women's rights movement.” — Cecily Jones, British Journal of Sociology

“Represents one of the first in-depth analyses of Black Feminist Organizations and fills in an important chapter in African American, women's, and social movement history.” — FrauenSolidarität

“As the first study to document twelve important years of black feminist activism, Living for the Revolution is a book to remember, and was well worth the wait.” — Duchess Harris, Journal of African American History

“For many years the absence of an historical examination of second-wave black feminism has been a glaring lacuna in the historiography of modern feminism. Kimberly Springer’s Living for the Revolution rectifies that omission with insight and passion, and this brief but rich monograph instantly assumes a great place in the historical scholarship of feminism. . . . Living for the Revolution merits a wide readership and immediate placement in the history of feminism’s canon.” — Whitney Strub, Journal for the Study of Radicalism

“Springer has contributed a work that greatly advances our knowledge of the substantial and sustained feminist activism of African American women in the postwar American cycle of protest. She has written an important book that remains a touchstone for anyone seeking to understand the complexity of the burgeoning and contentious American left of that era. . . . Springer's book, then, as an exploration of the lasting contributions of black feminists' grassroots organizing, should therefore be a required reading for all interested in the articulation of lasting visions of social change.” — Benita Roth, Peace & Change

“Springer has laid out an agenda for future research and enriched our understanding of 1960s and 1970s feminism.” — Christina Greene, American Historical Review

“Springer’s discussion of the activities of the next generation . . . helps keep hope alive and the political fires burning. But the difficulties facing formal black feminist organizing need close scrutiny of new organization are ever to spring up and thrive. We must understand the whys and how s of their predecessors’ demise as well as of their growth and legacy. This book makes an exhilarating contribution to this process.” — Tricia Rose, Women's Review of Books

“Springer's work is an exemplary organizational study of black feminism. . . .” — Stewart Burns, Journal of American History

“The arrival of Kimberly Springer's Living for the Revolution: Black Feminist Organizations, 1968-1980 invites scholars to include gender and women activists in their discussions of the African-American political landscape between the Second Reconstruction and the Reagan revolution. Though speaking more explicitly to feminist historiography and organizational theory, Springer's study of five prominent Black feminist organizations signals a turn in our academic approach to the liberation struggle.” — Elizabeth Hinton, Souls

"Living for the Revolution is an exciting and powerful work of historical and activist scholarship that brings into clear focus the visions, challenges, and framings of five black feminist organizations, groups that many Americans do not even know existed. Springer clearly challenges not only monolithic constructions of feminism and feminist, but also constructions of black women and black feminists as a homogenous group. She set out to begin to fill in gaps in the histories both of U.S. women’s movements and civil rights movements, and has produced a compelling text that is as thought provoking as it is enlightening." — On Campus with Women

"Living for the Revolution proves that these organizations have left comprehensive maps, which black feminists can make use of today and in the future." — KaaVonia Hinton, Foreword Reviews

"[A] treat. . . . Springer does a fine job laying out the challenges Black women faced . . . when trying to decide whether or not to join the women's movement."

— Patrice Gaines, The Crisis

"[I]n Springer's book we get another great opportunity to learn more about the activism of black women whose 'voices and visions fell between the cracks of the civil rights and women's movements' (p. 2). . . . Springer's work is invaluable in that it is the first book to bring black socialist feminism to the center stage when recounting the drama of postwar activism. Springer . . . force[s] Americans to avert their idolizing gaze from Martin and Malcolm and recognize that women were at the epicenter, as well as out in front of, the postwar period's most serious efforts to make this country more egalitarian." — Heather Ann Thompson, Reviews in American History

"Readers looking to expand their cultural understanding or research into the topic will find this book very useful and enlightening." — Margot Considine, Altar

"Sisters of all stripes who want to make a difference during these challenging political times will find guidance (and cautionary tales!) in one of the first historical overviews of the black feminist movement. . . . [E]ssential reading." — Evelyn C. White, Girlfriends

"Springer's work provides the combination of historical narrative and sociological theory that can be used to influence both black feminist theory and its usage in public policy and human rights activism for decades to come." — Matthew W. Hughey, Canadian Journal of Sociology

Living for the Revolution is a fabulous book with rich data and fine analysis. To date, nothing has been written that fills this particular historical vacuum. African American women’s participation in the feminist movement has only been told from the point of view of white feminists or in bits and pieces by others.” — Belinda Robnett, author of How Long? How Long? African-American Women in the Struggle for Civil Rights

Living for the Revolution will force scholars working on either the women’s movement or black liberation to change their standard narrative.” — Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kimberly Springer is a lecturer in American Studies at Kings College, University of London. She is the editor of Still Lifting, Still Climbing: African American Women’s Contemporary Activism.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Organizational Abbreviations vii

Acknowledgments ix

1. The Soul of Women's Lib 1

2. No longer Divided against Ourselves 45

3. Barbecue and Bake Sales Won't Fund a Movement 65

4. Black Women's Issues as Feminist Issues 88

5. Black Feminist Identities in Contestation 113

6. War-Weary Warriors 139

Conclusion 168

Epilogue 173

Appendix A: Interviews by Organization 181

Appendix B: Interview Questions 183

Appendix C: Statements of Purpose 185

Notes 191

Index 217

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3493-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3481-1
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