We Wanted a Revolution

Black Radical Women, 1965–85: A Sourcebook

We Wanted a Revolution

Book Pages: 320 Illustrations: 40 illustrations Published: April 2017

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Art and Visual Culture > Art History, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies

A landmark exhibition on display at the Brooklyn Museum from April 21 through September 17, 2017, We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85 examines the political, social, cultural, and aesthetic priorities of women of color during the emergence of second-wave feminism. It showcases the work of black women artists such as Emma Amos, Maren Hassinger, Senga Nengudi, Lorraine O'Grady, Howardena Pindell, Faith Ringgold, and Betye Saar, making it one of the first major exhibitions to highlight the voices and experiences of women of color. In so doing, it reorients conversations around race, feminism, political action, art production, and art history in this significant historical period.

The accompanying Sourcebook republishes an array of rare and little-known documents from the period by artists, writers, cultural critics, and art historians such as Gloria Anzaldúa, James Baldwin, bell hooks, Lucy R. Lippard, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Lowery Stokes Sims, Alice Walker, and Michelle Wallace. These documents include articles, manifestos, and letters from significant publications as well as interviews, some of which are reproduced in facsimile form. The Sourcebook also includes archival materials, rare ephemera, and an art-historical overview essay. Helping readers to move beyond standard narratives of art history and feminism, this volume will ignite further scholarship while showing the true breadth and diversity of black women’s engagement with art, the art world, and politics from the 1960s to the 1980s.

We Wanted a Revolution will also be on display at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles from October 13, 2017 through January 14, 2018; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York from February 17, 2018 through May 27, 2018; and at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston from June 26, 2018 through September 30, 2018.

Published by the Brooklyn Museum and distributed by Duke University Press


"The Sourcebook rounds up and republishes rare documents be iconic figures of the time, including Gloria Anzaldúa, James Baldwin, bell hooks, Lucy R. Lippard, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Lowery Stokes Sims, Alice Walker, and Michelle Wallace. Many of the documents are reproduced in facsimile form, recreating the spirit of the period and its style.  Suddenly, it all comes rushing back — whether you were there or not. The printed page becomes a repository of soul and here you can finally be set free. Liberated from the endless scroll that is designed to zap you of the force required to organize, a Sourcebook restores to you the power you need to keep the revolution going, 360 degrees." — Miss Rosen Presents blog

"This unsurpassed collection is an excellent resource for students, educators, and enthusiastic artists. Highly recommended. All levels/libraries." — A. O. Yeboah, Choice

" An invaluable reference, this volume is a true sourcebook, containing reproductions of key documents, articles, and publications from the period. Writings by curators Catherine Morris Rujeko Hockley, and many of the artists represented in the show, give context." — Victoria L. Valentine, Culture Type

"I found We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women 1965-85: A Sourcebook to be an unmatched resource that should be required reading in university Africana, American, and Gender Studies Departments, as well as in art history programs, nationwide. Impeccably and innovatively designed (alternating gray, white and black pages; rectangular boxes  drawn around each source reference;  and 3-D reproductions of original journals and letters), this is not your typical anthology, but rather a well-structured, astutely annotated, and beautifully produced book that the authors and the Brooklyn Museum should be proud of. I, for one, am grateful for their efforts."  — Lisa Farrington, Woman's Art Journal

"The two volumes—We Wanted a Revolution: A Sourcebook, and New Perspectives—provide a vital compendium of primary resources, artists’ and art historical perspectives, and installation documentation that are extremely valuable in opening up discourses on contemporary art, encouraging and supporting further research. The overarching themes of Revolution highlight an ethical acknowledgement of the interdependency of people, exploring personal expression without indulging in mythologies of complete personal autonomy." — Deborah Frizzell, Woman's Art Journal


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Catherine Morris is Sackler Family Senior Curator for the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, the editor of "Workt by Hand": Hidden Labor and Historical Quilts (2013), and coeditor of Materializing "Six Years": Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art (2012) and Judith Scott—Bound and Unbound (2014).

Rujeko Hockley, formerly Assistant Curator, Contemporary Art, at the Brooklyn Museum, is now Assistant Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword / Anne Pasternak  10
Acknowledgments  12
Revolutionary Hope: Landmark Writings, 1965-85 / Catherine Morris and Rujeko Hockley  16
Spiral, the Black Arts Movement, and "Where We At" Black Women Artists / Connie H. Choi  26
1. Why Spiral? (1966) / Jeanne Siegel  33
2. Any Day Now: Black Art and Black Liberation (1969) / Larry Neal  39
3. Africobra: African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists, 10 in Search of a Nation (1970) / Jeff Donaldson  52
4. "Where We At" Black Women Artists (1972) / Kay Brown  62
Race and Women's Liberation / Rujeko Hockley  66
5. An Argument for Black Women's Liberation as Revolutionary Force (1969) / Mary Ann Weathers  70
6. What the Black Woman Thinks About Women's Lib (1971) / Toni Morrison  75
7. In Search of Our Mother's Gardens: The Creativity of Black Women in the South (1974) / Alice Walker  84
8. Black Feminism: A New Mandate (1974) / Margaret Sloan  94
9. A Litany for Survival (1978) / Audre Lorde  99
Faith Ringgold's Radical Activism / Catherine Morris  100
10. For the Women's House: Interview with Faith Ringgold (1972) / Michele Wallace  104
Collective Artist Actions in New York / Carmen Hermo  114
11. The Demands of Art Workers Coalition (1969) / Art Workers' Coalition  120
12. To the Viewing Public for the 1970 Whitney Annual Exhibition (undated) / Women Artists in Revolution, Women's Ad Hoc Committee, and Women Students and Artists for Black Art Liberation  122
13, Letter of withdrawal from Contemporary Black Artists in America, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1971 (1971) / John Dowell, Sam Gilliam, Daniel Johnson, Joe Overstreet, Melvin Edwards, Richard Hunt and William T. Williams  124
14. Letter in defense of the Judson Three (1971) / Flo Kennedy, Gerald Lefcourt, and Robert Pojanksy  126
15. Letter of support of the Judson Threet (1971) / The Committee to Defend the Judson Three  128
16. Color Scheming (1981) / Lucy R. Lippard  130
Just Above the Midtown Gallery / Rujeko Hockley  134
17. Letter to her parents (1967) / Linda Goode Bryant  139
18. Cover artwork (undated) for Black Currant 1, no. 1 (May 1982) / Janet Henry  144
19. B Culture 1, no. 1 (1986) / Greg Tate and Craig Dennis Street  146
20. Interview with Linda Goode Bryant (1994) / Tony Whitfield  148
Senga Nengudi's Freeway Fets / Rujeko Hockley  166
21. Announcement card for Freeway Fets (1978) / Senga Nengudi  170
The Combahee River Collective / Rujeko Hockley  172
22. A Black Feminist Statement (1977) / The Combahee River Collective  176
Struggling for Diversity in Heresies / Catherine Morris  184
23. Letters between Combahee River Collective and Heresies Lesbian Issue Collective n "Women's Traditional Arts—The Politics of Aesthetics," Heresies, issue 4 (1978)  188
24. Third World Women Speak (1978) / Lowery Stokes Sims  190
25. Editorial Statement in "Third World Women—The Politics of Being Other," Heresies, issue 8 (1979) / Lula Mae Blocton, Yvonne Flowers, Valerie Harris, Zarina Hashmi, Virginia Jaramillo, Dawn Russell, and Naeemah Shabazz  194
26. Mlle Bourgeoise Noire Goes to the New Museum, in "The Women's Pages," Heresies, issue 14 (1982) / Lorraine O'Grady  197
27. Editorial Statement and Heresies Collective Statement in "Racism Is the Issue," Heresies, issue 15 (1982) / Vivian E. Browne, Cynthia Carr, Michele Godwin, Hattie Gossett, Carole Gregory, Sue Heinemann, Lucy R. Lippard, May Stevens, Cecilia Vicuña, and Sylvia Witts Vitale  198
28. Some Do's and Don'ts for Black Women Artists in "Racism Is the Issue," Heresies, issue 15 (1982) / Emma Amos  205
29. Untitled, in "Racism Is the Issue," Heresies, issue 15 (1982) / Lorna Simpson  206
30. Black Dreams in "Racism Is the Issue," Heresies, issue 15 (1982) / Lorraine O'Grady  208
Ana Mendieta's Dialectics of Isolation / Stephanie Weissberg  210
31. Dialectics of Isolation: An Exhibition of Third World Women Artists of the United States, excerpts (1980)
Introduction / Ana Mendiata  214
Artist's Statement / Beverly Buchanan  216
Artist's Statement / Janet Henry  218
Artist's Statement / Senga Nengudi  220
Artist's Statment / Howardena Pindell  222
32. On Making a Video—Free, White and 21 (1992) / Howardena Pindell  224
Gender Politics at the Intersection of Race, Class, and Sexual Identity / Carmen Hermo  230
33. Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers (1981) / Gloria Anzaldúa  234
34. Revolutionary Hope: A Conversation Between James Baldwin and Audre Lorde (1984) / James Baldwin and Audre Lorde  242
The Eighties / Rujeko Hockley  252
35. Art (World) & Racism: Testimony, Documentation and Statistics (1987) / Howardena Pindell  257
36. Confession—Filming Family: An Interview with Artist and Filmmaker Camille Billips (1996) / bell hooks  292
37. Photo spread of Rodeo Caldonia (1987)  300
38. She Came with the Rodeo (1994) / Lisa Jones  302
Sources  314
Copyright Credits  316
Artists in the Exhibition We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85  317
Brooklyn Museum Board of Trustees  318
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-87273-183-7