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Ebook Information

Beyond Respectability

The Intellectual Thought of Race Women

The women and ideas behind the triumph of the black female intellectual

In the late nineteenth century, a group of publicly active African American women emerged from the social and educational elite to assume racial leadership roles. Their work challenged thinking on racial issues as well as questions about gender, sexuality, and class.

Beyond Respectability charts the development of African American women as public intellectuals and the evolution of their thought from the end of the 1800s through the Black Power era of the 1970s. Eschewing the Great Race Man paradigm so prominent in contemporary discourse, Brittney C. Cooper looks at the far-reaching intellectual achievements of female thinkers and activists like Anna Julia Cooper, Mary Church Terrell, Fannie Barrier Williams, Pauli Murray, and Toni Cade Bambara. Cooper delves into the processes that transformed these women and others into racial leadership figures, including long-overdue discussions of their theoretical output and personal experiences. As Cooper shows, their body of work critically reshaped our understandings of race and gender discourse. Cooper's work, meanwhile, confronts entrenched ideas of how--and who--produced racial knowledge.


Film Credit: Bob Greenberg at Brainwaves


"A work of crucial cultural study. . . .[Beyond Respectability]lays out the complicated history of black woman as intellectual force, making clear how much work she has done simply to bring that category into existence."--NPR

"If black women's history is your thing, Beyond Respectability should definitely be on your reading list."--Bitch

"At the cutting edge of black women's intellectual history, Brittney Cooper weaves together the ideas and lived experiences of women heretofore known as activists rather than thinkers. Through exacting analysis, a feminist lens, and her signature verve, Cooper establishes the centrality of black women's ideas to twentieth century political thought. This is a pathbreaking history of ideas."--Martha S. Jones, author of All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture, 18301900

"Brittney Cooper's Beyond Respectability... .makes an important contribution to a large body of scholarship that analyzes the long history of Black women's intellectual discourse. Focusing on the feminist theorizing of selected 'race women,' especially Fannie Barrier Williams, Anna Julia Cooper, Mary Church Terrell, Pauli Murray, and Toni Cade Bambara, Cooper probes their interior lives in new ways and makes more visible the complexities of their public stances. Her brilliant analysis and queer reading of Murray's life is perhaps its most compelling revisionist intervention."--Beverly Guy-Sheftall, coeditor of Words of Fire: An Anthology of African Feminist Thought


Brittney C. Cooper is an assistant professor of women's and gender studies at Rutgers University.

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