In the revolutionary book Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era by the Historian Ashley Farmer, the political, social, and economic impacts, and significance of Black women to the formation and development of the Black Power Movement was documented, accounting for the perspective of Black women who usually get silenced in history. The author does so by arguing that formations of womanhood by Black women were crucial sites of Black Power expression and investigates how they portray Black women’s intentional efforts to reformat racial, and gender hierarchies not only within the movement but in society at large (Farmer, 2017). Farmer achieves this intervention by using the gendered imaginary to study Black Power and centering the research on the “theoretical, textual, and visual representations of black women’s ideas” (Farmer 2017, 2).
Farmer defines the concept of “gendered imaginary” as “activists’ idealized, public projections of black manhood and womanhood” (Famer 2017, 2). This concept considered Black women activists to be independent intellectuals, and thus the diverse yet overlapping works of literature and artwork they created to broaden public opinion of Black womanhood became a window to their notion of liberation (2). By using different resources and data from those that originally claimed Black Power as a male-dominated era, Farmer was able to move the conversation of the Black Power movement and create a different conclusion about the era. As such, Remaking Black Power is a significant contribution to Black history, Black feminism, and intellectual history.
Remaking Black Power was a timely work with the increased rise of the Black Lives Matter movement after its three female co-founder activists were vocal during the 2016 United States presidential election and illustrated the influence of Black feminism in political organizing. Farmer’s brief introduction of Black nationalism, ideologies, and organisations along with a brief history of Black Power and discussion of key figures during the movement, and a brief history of Black feminism in the book was a good foundation of her research for the audience, especially those who found her book by exploring ideas regarding Black feminism after the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. In the introduction chapter of the book, Farmer acknowledged that there are limitations in her research is addressing all the nuances of identity politics, and in the sources chosen considering it biases the book towards recognized organizations and print media. Chapter 1 focused on how the gendered redefinition of Black women was the development and evolution of the Black Power era, and thus much more than a response to the sexism of male activists in the 1960s. This was followed by a clear portrayal that the writing of Black womanhood was crucial sites through which Black women created inclusive application of political theory in chapter 2.
The next chapter explored how cultural nationalism in political organising created a push to redefine Black womanhood and re-understand gender roles. Chapter 4 on the other hand, situated Black power as a movement that had global scope by discussing the intersection of Pan-Africanism and Black womanhood, and thus highlighted the significance of gendered imaginary as Black women’s intellectual activism. The final chapter widened the scope of Black feminism in political and cultural work and countered the notion that Black nationalism and Black feminism were in oppositional theoretically and in terms of their activist pursuit.
Farmer’s research illustrated that any future works on the history of the Black Power era that do not include Black women’s gendered experience are incomplete. This illustration has the power to influence other works of Black history and other areas of history by pushing Historians to ask themselves whether women were missing from the narrative because they did not play any role, or simply because they were not included.
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Farmer, Ashley D. 2017. Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.