Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective

Rate this book
The Combahee River Collective, a group of radical black feminists, was one of the most important organizations to develop out of the anti-racist and women's liberation movements of the 1960s and 70s. In this collection, founding members of the organization and contemporary activists reflect on the legacy of its contributions to black feminism and its impact on today's struggles.

191 pages, Paperback

First published December 5, 2012

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

20 books469 followers
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor writes on Black politics, social movements, and racial inequality in the United States. Her articles have been published in Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society, Jacobin, New Politics, the Guardian, In These Times, Black Agenda Report, Ms., International Socialist Review, Al Jazeera America, and other publications. Taylor is assistant professor in the department of African American Studies at Princeton University.

(from http://www.haymarketbooks.org/bio/Kee...)

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
2,283 (59%)
4 stars
1,241 (32%)
3 stars
296 (7%)
2 stars
31 (<1%)
1 star
13 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 478 reviews
Profile Image for Shirleen R.
126 reviews
March 2, 2018
Brief impression: Loved this collection. LOVED! Why? Back to basics. Back to fundamentals. Back to clear articulations of "what do we believe" and "why?" Sure, blame my displeasure with the ever-present market forces to brand "feminism" and even "black feminism" (a resistant concept from its inception). Maybe I'm a moody bitch, but I'm also tired of hot takes, sound bite, Twitter feminism -conceived in echo chambers, academic social rings, in her head and in isolation. I want a Black feminism that's rooted in HISTORY. A black feminism that walked amongst worlds in which Black women circulate. Or worlds Black women entered or re-shaped to survive. Black feminism that has no time for bullshit, that doesn't confuse naming elders to respect with name dropping, Black feminism not thirsty for approval now, or fixated on future posterity. Black feminism that is real, knows too much work to do to be caught up in those games.

HOW WE GET FREE is what I hungered for without knowing it. Substance. No filters. Depth. Length. Prof. Keeanga Yamahtta Taylor edited her long form interviews with key Black women organizers, women involved. This Princeton professor of African American studies is a brilliant thinker. The gift she gives her reader is to listen in her conversations, rather than assert a stamp or KYT brand in each chapter.

The Demita Frazier and Alicia Garza interviews stuck with me most. Actually, they all did. What I loved is the LENGTH of each chapter. 25-40 pages each of reflections, oral histories. These Black Women leader s and founders of these key organizations Combahee River Collective, or AAWDO, or National Black Feminist Organization or Black Lives Matter, don't just recount how their groups came into existence. Their activist journeys double as histories and lessons of how political organizing occurred - in Chicago, Oakland, Cleveland, Boston, North Hampton, wherever or whenever these interviewees took root. Another delight was to learn how engaged and on top of 2018 Black pop culture were these CRC founders. Beverly Smith and Barbara Smith are writers, educators, organizers, scholars, publishers, mentors, public health educators, atti- domestic violence advocates. They've worked many occupations. Over their years, they've built coalitions, supported in solidarity other groups -- say union striking laborers in trade industries - . These women show up. They've always shown up, living that Audre Lorde saying that if one of us is not free, then none of us can be free.

I'm humbled to read their life experience. To learn how they've put Black feminism into daily practice. Read this book and pass it on, please! Or I'll send you short PDFs of the most lit sections. For example, when Alicia Garza goes in on how social justice groups even other men of color erased. Blackness and co-opted work of Black queer women in the early days of Black Lives matter.

Profile Image for Michael.
655 reviews966 followers
December 7, 2018
Succinct and precise, How We Get Free reflects on the political legacy of the Combahee River Collective, a group of radical Black feminists active throughout the seventies. The collection includes the Combahee River Collective Statement, a document outlining the group's beliefs and practices, as well as a handful of retrospective interviews with key members. The interviews make up the bulk of the book, and are wide ranging in scope and stimulating to read. Former members comment on their contributions to Black feminism, such as the concepts of interlocking oppression and identity politics, and they highlight the collective’s relevance to current activist movements. Because the interviews share multiple perspectives about the group, the book reads as expansive and fascinating.
Profile Image for K Agbebiyi .
194 reviews716 followers
February 8, 2021
It feels good to get back to reading after a two week hiatus. I really, really, really enjoyed this book. So many highlights and tabs, and writing in the margins after just one read. I totally plan on going back and re-reading. I really loved all of the interviews, but especially Barbara Smith's. I think the main things that you take from this book are the context in which Black feminism began, the importance of the Combahee River Collective, and how much their vision was an anti-capitalist/socialist vision. Required reading for non black feminists that claim to be "intersectional." Overall, a phenomenal book, and now one of my favorites.

Profile Image for Nina.
99 reviews64 followers
January 8, 2018
"I'm not nostalgic. I'm looking back to mine the past for what it can help us with right now, and for what it can help us pass on and create. And I still feel part of creation. When people start talking about being an elder, I'm like, 'Yeah, but you know, don't be asking about some shit that happened thirty, forty years ago.' I have an eidetic memory, and I remember it exactly. But to me, that's not--I'm not nostalgic. It's like not then. What about right now? What about right now? That's me." - Demita Frazier

It's been forty years since the Combahee River Collective Statement was published. This book, How We Get Free includes an introduction by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, a reprint of the Statement, four interviews conducted by Taylor (one with BLM co-founder Alicia Garza and three with founding members of the Combahee River Collective: Barbara Smith, Beverly Smith, and Demita Frazier), and text of a speech that Barbara Ransby gave at Socialism 2017.

The interviews take up the majority of the book and they are so filling. It's not the cleaned up prose of a statement, speech, or auto/biography. It's pretty raw oral history. Ideas and history told and expressed with personality. These histories are personal and collective. Black women with radical politics will find the book to be both comforting (yes, that experience of isolation in your work is real) and energizing (how else does one keep going but to have sincere conversations with community).

If we read the title of the book as a question, the interviewees offer answers: economic analyses, anti-capitalist or socialist politics, building actions based on analyses, solidarity and coalition building, naming things (the history behind the phrase "identity politics" is included here), etc.

Read this.

-- also, since Taylor asked Smith about it, here's a podcast that features the correct pronunciation of Combahee (and a story of the raid: http://uncivil.show/episode-the-raid.... h/t Akwugo Emejulu) --
Profile Image for Kevin.
493 reviews82 followers
April 13, 2023
“If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.” -The Combahee River Collective Statement, 1977

The Combahee River Collective was a feminist organization that incorporated feminism, socialism, and LGBTQ activism. Active from 1974 to 1980, the Collective maintained that both the Civil Rights Movement and the Feminist Movement failed to address the needs of Black women, especially LGBTQ Black women.

The founders of CRC argued that mainstream feminism was fraught with racist ideologies and the Civil Rights Movement had a heavily sexist and homophobic slant. Black women needed an inclusive, representative voice; a platform from which ALL Black women could be heard.

How We Get Free begins with the ‘The Combahee River Collective Statement.’ Written half a century ago, the CRCS is a manifesto of the highest order. It identifies and clarifies the roots of Black feminism. It states the goals and objectives of Black feminism. It recognizes the potential pitfalls of setting Black feminism apart from other activist constructs. And finally it defines the projects necessary to achieve the aforementioned goals and objectives. The CRCS stands today both as a testament to progressive acumen and as a sobering reminder of unfulfilled promise. The fact that the Statement is still relevant means that we’re not yet where we need to be. Not. Even. Close.

The most enlightening parts of How We Get Free are the interviews of Barbara Smith, Beverly Smith, Demita Frazier, and Alicia Garza. Four women I was shamefully unaware of but now thankfully will never forget. These are passionate activists on the right side of history. Anyone who fails to take these women seriously does so at his/her own peril.

“Always ally yourself with those on the bottom, on the margins, and at the periphery of the centers of power …in doing so you will land yourself at the very center of some of the most important struggles of our society and our history.”

NOTE: Thank you Monica for putting this book on my radar!
Profile Image for chantel nouseforaname.
628 reviews312 followers
August 4, 2018
Educational. Reaffirming and life-affirming. Reading OG Black Feminists discuss the struggle for liberation and the demand to be heard was what I needed right now. It's what I needed today. It's what I need everyday. It reminds me to keep pushing in my own work, at my own job and in my own communities. Every little bit matters. Every challenge matters.

These women challenged the sexism and racism present in various movements and started to fight their way through the exclusion and homophobia rampant in both white feminist movements and black male-centered movements. The CRC created their own shit and to this day stays centring black feminism as the political movement to fuck up the systems of oppression that all women of colour face. It was sometimes disheartening to read about how some of the women interviewed see Black Feminism today, I do think it's somewhat generational, but it does remind me to keep challenging fucked up non-inclusive, non-intersectional ways of thinking in society. It's important to make our own way.

Kenanga-Yamahtta Taylor is a brilliant writer and this is essential reading.
Profile Image for Gabriella.
271 reviews247 followers
December 27, 2020
This book is like reading conversations with five fortune tellers, OMG. It brings me back to my central point in life (courtesy of my friend Ambar): "everything I aspire to do, my ancestors have done already." Everything I aspire to in political theory and action can, in some way, be found in this statement and the work that lies behind it.

I'm currently reading with book club, but I will be sure to post a full review once we've finished talking this through together! :)
Profile Image for Bryan Cebulski.
Author 4 books39 followers
February 3, 2018
I went into How We Get Free expecting a more historical approach, using the oral histories of Combahee's founders to weave a brief narrative about what the collective did and how it came to be. Instead we have a reprinting of the Combahee River Collective Statement and transcriptions of interviews with its members (as well as BLM cofounder Alicia Garza). It isn't bad, but it makes me feel like this book was rushed to print. There are a lot of "I'm not sure"s and "I can't remember"s in the interviews, and they get in the way of the book's messaging. A deeper dive into the politics and history of Combahee would have resonated more strongly and for longer. This book feels very much of the moment. It's fine, but I hope it will be surpassed by much more comprehensive work in the near future.

How We Get Free's purpose is not so much to tell the story of Combahee as it is to connect it to activism today. To galvanize, invigorate the movement in a certain direction. That, I think, explains the feeling of it being rushed--because it really wants to speak to a very specific time and to a very specific audience. Which again I understand, cranking up the volume on Combahee's politics (which encompassed intersectionality before it was called that as well as anticapitalism and anti-imperialism) is crucial so that modern day activists can hear. But I don't think, or rather don't hope, that this will become the quintessential Combahee River Collection history source, because it's just not that in depth.
Profile Image for Gretchen.
907 reviews17 followers
January 14, 2018
Yep, loved everything about this. Required reading for white feminists.
Profile Image for Camryn.
Author 5 books793 followers
September 21, 2020
I hope to revisit this many times in the future.
Profile Image for B Sarv.
246 reviews13 followers
April 4, 2020
How We Get Free by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Citation (APA): Taylor, K. (2020). How We Get Free [Kindle iOS version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com

This book gave me the opportunity to think and learn about my role in the world. The book was comprised of six important sections: The Combahee River Collective Statement; interviews with Barbara Smith, Beverly Smith, Demita Frazier, and Alicia Garza; and Comments by Barbara Ransby. The Combahee River Collective Statement should be required reading – with discussion sessions afterward. It lays out the principles of how we should treat one another and what it means to stand for and fight for justice. The interviews with the Smith sisters and Demita Frazier allow the reader the opportunity to examine the Civil Rights Era and post-Civil Rights Era with insights from people who lived through the experiences. The interview with Alicia Garza helped the reader get insight into the development of the Black Lives Matter movement. This interview was an important supplement to a book I read last year: “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir” by Patrisse Khan-Cullors. Finally, the comments by Barbara Ransby put the rest of the book in perspective.

In the Introduction to the book I began to see revealed what I referred to above as “my role in the world” because it put my privilege in perspective. Dr. Taylor explained the concept of intersectionality: “CRC [Combahee River Collective] did articulate the analysis that animates the meaning of intersectionality, the idea that multiple oppressions reinforce each other to create new categories of suffering.” (location 79 of 2488 Kindle version) “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.” (location 87)

To build on these ideas, I had not gotten much further when I came across a sentiment that I strongly adhered to, “The Combahee River Collective built on those observations by continuing to analyze the roots of Black women’s oppression under capitalism and arguing for the reorganization of society based on the collective needs of the most oppressed. That is to say, if you could free the most oppressed people in society, then you would have to free everyone.” (Location 95) I was reminded of a quote from Angela Y. Davis, “When Black women win victories, it is a boost for virtually every sector of society.” So as I read I was thinking about my position in all of this. Eventually Dr. Taylor made the point that, “identity politics was not just about who you were; it was also about what you could do to confront the oppression you were facing.” Or as Bob Marley says in his song, “So Much Things to Say”:

“So don't you forget (no way) your youth
Who you are and where you stand in the struggle”

So I applied each of these conditions to myself: I am among the most privileged in society and I believe that it is my duty to confront oppression at all levels. I must do so because I am in a position to do so and I face virtually no consequences for doing so. I am required to work on myself and others to ensure we work toward a world that is anti-racist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, and anti-hetero-patriarchy, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia. In other words, my role is to be an ally in any way that I can. Because when others are oppressed my freedom is a mere illusion.

In what context is this possible? How do I do this? I think it has to do with how we live our lives and so I came back to one of my favorite bell hooks quotes, “. . . . the whole idea of a heroic journey, its rarely a journey that’s about love, it’s about deeds that have to do with conquering, domination – what have you – and so part of what I wanted to say to people was that living as we do in a culture of domination to truly choose to love is heroic, to work at love, to really let yourself understand the art of loving.” (Speaking Freely – Show #235 YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2bmn...) This too is a main theme that reoccurs in the venerable James Baldwin’s writing. The Combahee River Collective, as explained by Dr. Taylor in her introduction, speaks to me and is a revival and a testimonial as to where I should be standing in “all of this.” An ally, who works to end all oppression, using the tools I have available, with love in my heart.

Dr. Taylor explained how this worked in the context of being an ally, “Solidarity did not mean subsuming your struggles to help someone else; it was intended to strengthen the political commitments from other groups by getting them to recognize how the different struggles were related to each other and connected under capitalism.” (location 173) Shortly before this she wrote, “The ability to distinguish between the ideology of the American Dream and the experience of the American nightmare requires political analysis, history and often struggle.” (location 164). So this is why I read books with difficult subject matter that challenges me and most importantly challenges the brainwashing I received at the hands of the American education system. To reiterate, “If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.” (location 180)

So from the Combahee River Collective Statement itself I underlined this section of their beliefs: “We believe that the most profound an potentially the most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression.” (location 281) I apologize for being redundant, but I want to share the note I made contemporaneously with my reading of that quote. I wrote at the time, “Thus if one is not oppressed but on the contrary privileged then that person can fight to end the oppression of others. And to truly be free that person has an interest in the freeing of others by working toward ending their oppression.”

In the interview between Dr. Taylor and Dr. Barbara Smith they discussed some of the areas of activism undertaken by women in the Collective. She spoke at length about ending forced sterilization: “Sterilization abuse was happening to women of color all over the country and in Puerto Rico. It was so common in Puerto Rico that they just called it “the operation.” In Spanish. “La operación,” or however you would say it. So many women had been sterilized in Puerto Rico. Native American women were disproportionately sterilized against their will or without their consent. Black women, particularly Black women who were receiving government entitlements, were sterilized. There were two sisters—the Relf sisters in Alabama. The Relf sisters, Mary Alice, who was twelve years old and Minnie Lee, fourteen, had developmental disabilities. They were sterilized as teenagers. So it was pandemic, you know? And we were trying to deal with that.” (location 725) Imagining forced sterilization just blows the mind. Who does that? Well, we know the answer.

On the concept of intersectionality, Dr. Smith said, “What we were saying is that we have a right as people who are not just female, who are not solely Black, who are not just lesbians, who are not just working class, or workers—that we are people who embody all of these identities, and we have a right to build and define political theory and practice based upon that reality. That was all we were trying to say. That’s what we meant by identity politics. We didn’t mean that if you’re not the same as us you’re nothing. We were not saying that we didn’t care about anybody who wasn’t exactly like us.” (location 847) Two things about this struck me. One is that this seemed to make a lot of sense – to base theory and practice on the lived reality. Two, is the irony of the position which is in parallel with democratic ideals yet is in counter-point to the white-supremacist, capitalist, heteronormative, patriarchy which excludes everyone who isn't exactly like them. (bell hooks’ phrase).. She goes on to say, “There’s far too much of the perspective of: “You’re not like me. I’m not like you. I’m not a transgender person. I don’t give a damn whether you can go to a bathroom or not. And the fact that you’re being murdered summarily, and that your income levels keep you in poverty far more likely than somebody who is cisgender—that’s not my problem!” Those are bad politics. Really, really bad politics. And the reason it’s important, as I said, is because that’s how we win, and that’s how we survive in the meantime.” (location 888)

Later, as Dr. Taylor interviewed Demita Frazier, Ms. Frazier explained where things stand today with some of the activism: “When you think about the institutions in this country, like the Black Women’s Health Network, that’s a successful organization because it saves Black women’s lives, and yet Black mortality amongst mothers is as high as it has ever been. So we have impact, but it’s limited. It’s limited by our status. It’s limited by the reality of white supremacy and then misogyny.” (location 1827) I felt a strong affinity to Ms. Frazier’s perspective and she really captivated me with the following quote, because I believe it is central to the overall problem of consumerism and the corpratocracy: “I’m like, all this aspirational crap . . . that people are supposed to want and believe in because it’s going to make you—what? I don’t know what. So you know, supporting the beauty industry by fifty million ways—okay, fine. The shoes, the clothes, the houses, the this, the that—okay, fine, whatever. But seriously, I’m not feeling any of it. And I think that one of the things that’s happened is that between organized pro-capitalist Black religion . . . not the Reverend Barbers of this world, but others who . . . are perpetuating and creating new little kingdoms for the kings, primarily, and a handful of queens. . . .You know, it’s really—I feel like we’ve been—we’ve tricked ourselves into thinking because we moved to the suburbs and we’re living in these McMansions—a handful of us, a handful of us who are associated with a certain level of class privilege in this country—that’s become the dominant image.” (location 1832)

Ms. Frazier makes a transition into one of the main ideas that came out in Dr. Taylor's interview of Alicia Garza, "Characterization is indeed everything—power lies with us wrenching the narrative out of the hands that are dedicated to maintaining that illusion." (location 1862) Alicia Garza is one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter and in her interview with Dr. Taylor she addressed the challenges to modern-day activism. Similar to Ms. Frazier, Ms. Garza says, “I think what we’re trying to offer is that when you attempt to dismantle a global system and a global organizing principle; there are all kinds of ways in which the state tries to discourage that.” (location 2225) To illustrate she spoke about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Even Martin [King], you know, as Martin was starting to become more explicitly anticapitalist, though I would say he was probably anti-interventionist–anti-imperialist before he was anticapitalist, but that’s when he was assassinated.” (location 2229) Right now the propaganda machine is in the fists of the wealthy that have co-opted the corpratocracy. So sadly, Ms. Garza’s assessment is correct. Expecting change is a challenge, but the fight must continue, and who can the fight depend on? She says, “Well, I really hope your strategy wasn’t predicated on white people because they just cannot be depended on yet, not in that way.” (location 2246)

Later on, comments by Barbara Ransby reinforced what Ms. Garza was saying. Citing one of America’s biggest corporate propaganda machines, the New York Times, she says, “The writer, Bari Weiss, in the op-ed page of the New York Times, said intersectionality is the problem with the left today. That is an odd assertion to say the least. What does that assertion even mean? It means all of the lame coalitions that are saying, “Put all of your differences on the back burner. Don’t talk about race. Don’t talk about gender. Don’t talk about sexuality. Just talk about class.” (location 2366) But she makes it clear, this is not at all what the Combahee River Collective Statement is about, “If we take to heart the spirit and politics of the Combahee River Collective Statement, what we go away with is this: (1) never be afraid to speak truth to power, and (2) in the face of racist, misogynist threats of violence and attacks, when you have the impulse to either fight or flight, what do you do? Fight! And, (3) always ally yourself with those on the bottom, on the margins, and at the periphery of the centers of power. And in doing so, you will land yourself at the very center of some of the most important struggles of our society and our history.” (location 2374)

I encourage everyone to read this book and familiarize yourself with the Combahee River Collective Statement. I only hope that I can live up to the standards they have set.
Profile Image for axmed.
38 reviews11 followers
June 23, 2020
Learned a lot about the history of Combahee River Collective, who's 1977 statement remains a touchstone of black and intersectional feminism and trans inclusive feminist politics. Some of the members of the collective who are interviewed in this book also connect their work to current feminism around the world. Very important book!

P.S. the wrong Barbara Smith and Beverly Smith are tagged by Good Reads
Profile Image for Theodore.
125 reviews19 followers
July 30, 2020
i want to live in a community and spaces that the Combahee river collective envisions. the statement that was written 1974 still stands and continues to serve as a guide of principles that society should be put into both political and intellectual practice.

the standout interview was Demita Fraizer! she does not miss.

"to look at [our] material conditions, to analyze it, interrogate it, and come away with an analysis that's about empowerment" - Demita Frazier
Profile Image for Becky.
1,273 reviews51 followers
October 23, 2018
I bought this book as a gift for my sister at her request and in doing so acquired the ebook for free - to my delight as the topic sounded highly interesting. I didn't realize that the bulk of the book was a series of interviews, but I learned a great deal from them. I'm not sure about how to rate this book because I too rarely read non-fiction, but I found it extremely well put together, informative, and motivating.
Profile Image for Helena.
157 reviews
March 16, 2021
I really enjoyed this!! I had a little trouble following some of the threads in the interviews, because of a lack of historical knowledge I think and also because I think it’s hard sometimes to understand spoken stuff when it’s transcribed to written. Overall thought it was a really good discussion of what black feminism is/is meant to be and how it looks in action
Profile Image for Bonnie G..
1,295 reviews188 followers
May 16, 2023
(Read in 2020 -- for some reason this is marked as 2022 by GR. When I refer to the "radical anarchist in the White House" I am not talking about Joe Biden.)

Americans are loathe to place things into historical context, to reflect on past experience, to learn, and to move forward. Rather we burn things down and start from zero all the time. It is frustrating and infuriating, and as much as I would like to lay this behavior at the feet of the radical anarchist in the White House and his merry band of self-dealing lackeys it is something that is routinely done by the right, the left, the center, and by those at every point in between those spots on the spectrum. One movement that has been most guilty of this is feminism. Third wave feminists reject second-wave feminism out of hand as just a bunch of bitter women who want to stop them from getting laid and wearing cute shorts. This book, a collection of interviews by and between current black feminist socialist activists and the founders of the Combahee River Collective, the royalty of second-wave feminism, contextualizes current definitions of feminism, gender and sexuality, and to a lesser extent the modern American spin on socialism. This is where intersectionality comes from, and the discussion is really satisfying.

I am an old feminist, most definitely placed squarely within the later part of the second wave. I was a Women's Studies minor in the 80's. and read some about the statements of the Combahee Collective at the time, but honestly not a ton so much of this was revelatory. The interviews with the three founders were genius. Barbara Smith, Beverly Smith, and Demita Frazier are endlessly wise. I learned so much from listening to their interviews. Though I support BLM, I am not a fan of Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, and my opinion of her after reading this book has not really improved much. She is sloppy as an academic, and to the extent she has a philosophy guiding her actions it is a philosophy that favors toppling over building. Tear that shit down is not reasoned or productive political discourse. Her anti-semitic rant at the end did not help. (You can support the interests of the Palestinian people without being an anti-semite, I am a person who does that -- Taylor does not.) For the most part this was amazing, and I tore through the audiobook. I recommend it absolutely,.
Profile Image for Rosa K.
72 reviews37 followers
March 2, 2020
a book I will undoubtedly revisit. what a text, what an unapologetic book of praxis, history, and call to action in a specific Black feminist lens.

“The authors of the Combahee River Collective Statement have reminded us over and over again that this was a left document. It was a socialist document. It offered a platform that had enormous depth and breadth. And so this offers us a window into understanding the role of Black feminism, which is really a roadmap for liberation...

The statement and the practice that surrounded it debunks the notion that so-called identity politics represents a narrowing rather than a broadening of our collective political vision. The document is anti-racist, anti capitalist, anti-imperialist, and anti hetero patriarchy. That is CRC’s Black feminist agenda” - Barbara Ransby
Profile Image for Kurt.
610 reviews10 followers
September 10, 2020
Glad to have read HOW WE GET FREE, primarily an oral history of the Combahee River Collective — though I admit oral history isn't my favorite. I felt like Taylor's interviews of Barbara Smith, Beverly Smith, and Demita Frazier had a little too much redundancy; hearing Alicia Garza was a breath of fresh air. I appreciated Taylor's commitment to recovering and highlighting the socialist/anti-capitalist revolutionary history of Black feminism in order to help cement those politics in the present and future.
Profile Image for Sian Lile-Pastore.
1,189 reviews150 followers
August 14, 2018
This was so great! I learned so much and my brain was fizzing!L
While it's about black queer women coming together in the 1970s it's also about the work we have to do today.
Loved it.
Profile Image for Joan.
296 reviews45 followers
January 16, 2021
very important and essential read that clarified the true meaning of identity politics and how its been misconstrued

what struck me in particular was learning about how necessary Black feminism is dismantling systems of oppression and when we rally around the struggles of poor Black women, that is when we can all become free
Profile Image for Sam Cristol.
25 reviews4 followers
March 29, 2023
This little book is a gift to us all!! Not only does Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor republish the Combahee River Collective statement (which is probably the most succinct, accessible introduction to intersectional Black feminism I’ve come across) but she interviews its authors 40 years later and draws out the stories of their politicization. I loved reading about the forces that shaped these women into such revolutionary thinkers, and their analysis is just as salient and radical in 2023. Over the course of these interviews, they get into topics like critique of Black capitalism, mainstream versions of “feminism” with no class analysis, and the initial meaning behind the term “identity politics,” a term they coined in the statement to describe a person’s right to organize and build an analysis based on their own personal experience with “interlocking oppressions” (clearly a precursor to Kimberle Crenshaw’s “intersectionality”). Closing with an interview of Alicia Garza was a particularly poignant and powerful choice. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Rebecca.
35 reviews6 followers
February 15, 2021
“... a sacred text, and I say that as a pretty committed secularist” (Barbara Ransby, 180)
Profile Image for Vic S-F.
252 reviews10 followers
August 5, 2021
I had no idea what I was going to listen to that could possible follow Four Hundred Souls and this DID IT.
Profile Image for Adam.
92 reviews
July 27, 2021
A fantastic, enjoyable and insightful set of interviews, even if the format is not my favorite. Drawing out the explicit lineage of the Combahee River Collective to the current Black Lives Matter movement places a useful historical context around the interviews and the different perspectives really illustrates how and why both organizations were built. This collection is also an endorsement for the power of reading, discussing and growing ideas in groups
Profile Image for Tedi.
21 reviews
February 5, 2018
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is a brilliant writer with a gift for in-depth analysis. That's evident in her prior work and in her introduction to this book. To that point, I wish she had used the interviews in this book as the foundation of a more expansive exploration of the history and tactics of such a critically important movement. I understand the intent to showcase the interviewees, but I think Taylor took too much of a backseat here in not fleshing out these ideas more in-depth, and the book feels lesser for her not contributing a bigger role to its overall message. Simply presenting the interviews (which could seriously use some editing for brevity) as is just left me wanting and expecting more. I look forward to her next book.
Profile Image for Jess.
106 reviews17 followers
February 3, 2021
If you fancy yourself feminist, consider this required reading.
Profile Image for warren.
100 reviews6 followers
April 8, 2021
lovely easy to read, short and would make a great part of any introduction to modern Black feminism and general freedom movements ! the combahee river collective statement is very classic and concise, focusing on "interlocking oppressions" (would be termed intersectionality) of racism, misogyny, homophobia, and the oft-omitted ones of imperialism and capitalism. the statement is essential but u can read that free on the internet,, the interviews are nice though. it shows the breadth of approaches and opinions that people were taking as they wrote the statement, it's fun to read and they are very grounded in organization and experience as all radical thinking should be! feel free to borrow this from me if u want!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 478 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.