This paper revisits the moment of emergence for black studies, paying particular attention to the ferment of social and cultural activity that happened in the early 1970s. Through attention to the publication of Toni Cade Bambara’s The Black Woman (1970), the advent of the National Black Feminist Organization (1973), and an examination of early black studies programs in the university, I want to think through the tensions between the institutionalization of black or African American studies and alternate sites of black study in local communities and activist spaces. I argue that looking at these alternate sites of black study might be especially relevant for re-thinking the project of black studies in the 21st century, particularly since the political and intellectual demands of the Movement for Black Lives are situated within a firm critique of the neoliberal university and its inability to serve the needs of black students.
Brittney Cooper is associate professor of women’s and gender studies and Africana studies at Rutgers University. She is author of Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women (University of Illinois Press, May 2017) and Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower (St. Martin’s Press, February 2018), and co-editor of the Crunk Feminist Collection (The Feminist Press, 2017).
She is co-founder of the popular Crunk Feminist Collective blog, and is a contributing writer for Cosmopolitan.com and a former contributor to Salon.com. Her cultural commentary has been featured on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes,” “Melissa Harris-Perry,” Al Jazeera’s “Third Rail,” The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, PBS, Ebony.com, Essence.com, TheRoot.com, and TED.com.