Black Women's Groups, Life Narratives, and the Construction of the Self in Late Twentieth-Century Britain

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Black British women's centres and groups evolved out of black women's combined exclusion from male-dominated anti-racist activism and the resurgent feminist movement of the late 1960s. And yet, despite their stable presence in many of Britain's inner cities, black women's centres and groups, and the lives of the women who forged them, have evaded historical interrogation. This article explores how black women's centres provided women with the space and time to nurture their personal experiences of sexism and racism, achieve a sense of self-sufficiency, and celebrate their heritage, which placed every member on a path towards self-discovery. This centring of the black female self was not, as black male activists believed, set on undermining the Black liberation movement, but was considered as a vital tool in the overarching mission to defeat white global supremacy. Drawing on a collection of oral history interviews, this article explores how black female activists constructed a sense of self that turned away from the homogenizing white gaze of post-war Britain. Teasing out the complexities around black female activism, selfhood, and memory, this article contributes substantially to the growing body of literature on late twentieth-century black British history.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Historical Journal
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2021