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Beyond RespectabilityThe Intellectual Thought of Race Women$
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Brittney C. Cooper

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040993

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040993.001.0001

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date: 19 June 2018

The Duty of the True Race Woman

The Duty of the True Race Woman

Chapter:
(p.11) Introduction The Duty of the True Race Woman
Source:
Beyond Respectability
Author(s):

Brittney C. Cooper

Publisher:
University of Illinois Press
DOI:10.5406/illinois/9780252040993.003.0002

What does it mean and what has it meant to be a Black female intellectual? What does it mean to be a race woman? When and where are the sites of race women’s becoming? Brittney Cooper argues that to arrive at an answer to the first question, we must diligently interrogate and examine the latter questions. Race women were the first Black women intellectuals. As they entered into public racial leadership roles beyond the church in the decades after Reconstruction, they explicitly fashioned for themselves a public duty to serve their people through diligent and careful intellectual work and attention to “proving the intellectual character” of the race. Pauline Hopkins declared two key tasks attached to the work of the “true race-woman.” They were “to study” and “to discuss” “all phases of the race question.” Not only were these women institution builders and activists; they declared themselves public thinkers on race questions. Though Hopkins and her colleagues were part of a critical mass of public Black women thinkers in the 1890s, they joined a longer list of Black women who had been at the forefront of debates over “the woman question” and the role of Black women in public life throughout the 1800s.

Keywords:   race women, intellectual genealogy, Black female intellectual, intellectual history, Anna Julie Cooper, Mary Church Terrell, Fannie Barrier Williams, Pauli Murray, Toni Cade Cambara

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