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

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  779 ratings  ·  115 reviews
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 stru ...more
Paperback, 191 pages
Published November 28th 2017 by Haymarket Books (first published November 20th 2017)
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4.42  · 
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 ·  779 ratings  ·  115 reviews

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Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, favorites, kindle
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 contrib ...more
Shirleen R
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 th ...more
Oct 12, 2017 added it
"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." - ...more
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Yep, loved everything about this. Required reading for white feminists.
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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/soci ...more
Bryan Cebulski
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: queer-general
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 interv ...more
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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!
Leah Rachel von Essen
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A superb book gathering together voices from the Combahee River Collective as well as current voices of black feminism and the Black Lives Matter movement. Digs into the ways that these movements are inextricably connected as well as providing an excellent history and outlook into the Collective.
This wasn't what I was expecting. This weaves the history in with the current political climate seamlessly.
chantel nouseforaname
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 ram
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Sian Lile-Pastore
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-books-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.
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Some books are windows, and they show you something and it can move you deeply. And very rarely a books is a doorway, and open to reveal a whole new place you've never been before, with an infinite number of new paths to travel. This is a small book but a doorway nonetheless. Following the statement, there are a series of warm and insightful interviews, including some with the women who founded the collective.
If you are new to feminism, you could skip every other text for the time being and star
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a short but packed history of the Combahee River Collective, an opening salvo for modern Black Feminist Theory.

The author speaks to the key players that created the CRC, and draws connections between the state of Black women 40 years ago and the same fights being handled by new generations of activists. Basically, none of us are free until all of us are free.

Recommended for scholars of feminist movements, and human rights struggles.
Scott Neigh
A really great little book combining movement history and radical analysis. The goal seems to be to clarify some current debates by creating a resource to allow a more robust understanding of the Combahee River Collective, whose famous statement from the 1970s is both a crucial document in the Black feminist tradition and also foundational to an increasingly common range of politics that are taken up by a much wider range of people and that draw strongly on Black feminism even while often drasti ...more
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: antiracism, feminism
I LOVE reading about movements, and I love reading about Black feminism and this collection combines both of those two things effortlessly. It features an introduction by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, the Combahee River Collective statement, and interviews with three people behind the statement: Barbara and Beverly Smith, and Demita Frazier, as well as both a current and historical perspective from #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Alicia Garza and historian Barbara Ransby.

The Combahee River Collective st
Joy Messinger
[5 stars] A series of edited interviews with three of the Combahee River Collective founders plus thoughts and remarks from two contemporary Black feminist activists and thought leaders. The slim volume shares a wealth of important history, reflections, and lessons on the CRC founding and work at its 40th anniversary. Essential reading for anyone organizing, learning, working, or interested in feminism, racial justice, queer liberation, socialism, intersectionality, and/or identity politics.
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a great idea for a book: Wonderful interviews with the authors of the Combahee River Collective statement (with the statement reprinted in the book as well), as well as an interview with Alicia Garza, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, and a transcript of a conference speech by a historian on the 40th anniversary of the statement.

Worth it for any single one of the interviews alone, together it becomes a must-read on Black Feminism then and now. Check it out!
A fantastic collection of primary resources on the Combahee River Collective and it's impact on current queer, feminist struggles for black liberation.
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found the interviews very interesting and found the personal histories of the women involved fascinating.
Mar 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Although I like a good oral history, I wish How We Get Free had a little more depth? Maybe I expected too much. On the plus side there were a lot of books I've added to my "to read" pile.
There’s very little on lesbian issues which I find a little odd tbh. Really necessary book though.
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Even having just finished it, I am already excited to re-read. Learned so much! Writing too much would not do this book justice. Go read it instead. It’s short enough you could finish in a day.
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Full review this weekend.
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Short but inspiring - a definite must read.
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
The term "identity politics" is often thrown around like there is no tomorrow (well, maybe there ain't) - from right wing hate speech to leftist dudes framing identity politics as the main hindrance to a revolution. But also within feminist discourses, the term is regularly used devoid from its context and first conceptualization. Last year the statement written by the Combahee River Collective, the/a key text on identity politics and intersectionality, celebrated its 40th birthday. Keeanga-Yama ...more
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's edited collection of interviews (also conducted by Taylor) with Barbara Smith, Beverly Smith, Demita Frazier and Alicia Garza along with remarks from Barbara Ransby creates a compelling reflection on the important and still pertinent Combahee River Collective's Statement. If you are interested in thinking deeply about how Black feminism diverges from mainstream white feminism this is for you. Several statements had me reflecting on the need for anti-capitalist and anti- ...more
May 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, nonfiction, politics
I feel like this collection of interviews would make an excellent secondary source for anyone doing research on Black activist movements--particularly Black Women activist movements; as a stand-alone, it feels disjointed and slightly confusing for someone not already well-versed in the subject. I read it after reading B.Cooper's Elegant Rage, in which she references the CRC statement, and after I watched the W. Kamau Bell United Shades of America about the Gullah Geechee community 0f the south, ...more
Morgan Dhu
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective, edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, is a collection of work memorialising and expanding upon the significant contributions to social justice theory made by the women of the Combahee River Collective (CRC). Taylor’s stated intent in this volume is “an effort to reconnect the radical roots of Black feminist analysis and practice to contemporary organizing efforts” and “to show how these politics remain historically vibrant and relev ...more
Feb 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 f ...more
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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 i ...more
“Above all else, our politics initially sprang from the shared belief that Black women are inherently valuable, that our liberation is a necessity not as an adjunct to somebody else’s but because of our need as human persons for autonomy.” 2 likes
“We reject pedestals, queenhood, and walking ten paces behind. To be recognized as human, levelly human, is enough.” 2 likes
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