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What Combahee Means to Me

A series in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Combahee River Collective’s ‘A Black Feminist Statement.’

 
October 30, 2017
 
 

I first encountered the Combahee River Collective fifteen years ago. I had just started a masters program in Gender Studies in London and the first thing I remember thinking was: I can’t believe I had to travel 2,000 miles to learn about this part of U.S. history.

And the Collective is deeply rooted in history. The name pays homage to the Combahee River Raid, a military action taken in South Carolina during the Civil War that led over 750 enslaved people to freedom, destroying the plantations of several prominent secessionists in the area along the way. The action was led by Harriet Tubman, most well known for her role in the Underground Railroad, but little known as the only woman to have led a military operation during the war.

In April 1977, the Collective issued 'A Black Feminist Statement,' a text that has become a core part of feminist genealogy in the United States and around the world. The Combahee statement is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and, to mark the milestone, the National Women’s Studies Association, also celebrating its 40th anniversary, has dedicated this year’s annual conference to the theme.

In the run up to the conference, here at University of Venus we’ll be featuring feminist scholars discussing the importance of the statement to their work, lives, and the current political moment. The first post in the series will run tomorrow. In the meantime, we encourage you to post any reflections on the Combahee statement’s influence on your own life and work in comments.

 

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