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

4.48  ·  Rating details ·  1,996 ratings  ·  265 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 December 5th 2012)
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Average rating 4.48  · 
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 ·  1,996 ratings  ·  265 reviews

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Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, recs
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
hima ☾
the ... principle that i take away from the work of the crc is the one of self-determination. they insist this: "if we don't love ourselves, if we don't work for our own liberation, who will do that?"

◦ foundational, required reading. really. the conversations had in this collection are really necessary.

◦ through interviews with three founding members of the Black feminist combahee river collective, as well as with a co-founder of the Black lives matter movement, how we get free gets to the
Sep 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I hope to revisit this many times in the future.
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
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Yep, loved everything about this. Required reading for white feminists.
B Sarv
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
How We Get Free by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

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

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 di
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
Jul 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
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 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.
rosa guac
Mar 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
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!

P.S. the wrong Barbara Smith and Beverly Smith are tagged by Good Reads
This wasn't what I was expecting. This weaves the history in with the current political climate seamlessly.
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Black feminism ! socialism ! anti-imperialism ! history and the now ! intersectionality ! the true meaning of identity politics !
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.
Sian Lile-Pastore
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Bonnie G.
American's 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 left, the center, and those at every point in between those spots on the spectrum. On ...more
Kurt Ostrow
Sep 09, 2020 rated it liked it
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 an ...more
Grace W
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, i-own
(Copy and Pasted from my review on TheStoryGraph) It's a really important thing, I think, to listen to the activists that came before us. It is so amazing to hear from these incredible women who did such great work for Black feminism. I think this is one of those books that really brings home how personal this fight is and also how important the work still is. It challenges the reader to do better while also reminding them that together we are stronger.
★ ⋆ Stella ⋆ ★
There are so many amazing reviews for this book, I don’t want to add noise. This book comprises of the CRC’s statement and edited long-form interviews between black women organizers. Please, read the aforementioned great reviews and then read this great book !!
May 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Excellent book for both newcomers to the work of the Combahee River Collective as well as folks looking for more context on their work. Especially loved Demita Frazier's section.
Chuy Ruiz
May 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a book of transcribed interviews for the most part. Not my ideal format, but I nevertheless enjoyed reading it. I liked hearing their perspective. Learned some things. Thought provoking. And most of all, it's a point of view that I would not have access to otherwise.
Jul 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So I'm trying to read more books about history, and more precisely books on the history nobody ever tells us : history of the feminism movement for example... And when I was gifted this book (thanks again Manon !!), I was really happy because it fits exactly the kind of testimonies I want to read.

I didn't know anything baout the Combahee River Collective and I now have a lot more to read about so that's already a reason to love this book. But mostly the interviews are amazing. I really learned
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
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
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
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
May 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, politics, nonfiction
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
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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

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