Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, by bell hooks, is a groundbreaking work that examines black womanhood and how strong black feminists have dealt with racism and sexism as a whole. The book was written in 1981, and some of the topics this pioneering book looks at include the devaluation of black women, black male sexism, black women’s involvement in feminism and the racism black women have suffered throughout the course of history, including during slavery.
While every feminist should have this book on their shelf, it’s also commonly used and a great choice for gender studies, black studies and philosophy courses as it examines when sexism and racism began and the effects they still have on black women to this day. While the feminism movement has been successful for the white, middle and upper class, it has done little for poor and non-white women. Hooks explores these topics in depth as she explains how slavery set up decades of treatment for black women.
Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism was inspired by a speech by African American abolitionist and feminist Sojourner Truth. Hooks has also named other feminist and civil right leaders as her influencers as well, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This was her first published work and it was written years earlier, while she was still an undergraduate student obtaining her B.A. in English from Stanford University.
In 1992, Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism was named “one of the twenty most influential woman’s books in the last 20 years” by Publishers Weekly.
Hooks has been known for exploring feminism and social activism through her writing. She has published 30 books as well as a number of scholarly articles. In addition to her writing, she has delivered public lectures and appeared in documentary films, addressing race, gender, sexuality, mass media and feminism.
Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism does not include a bibliography of the sources listed in the notes section, and many have criticized hooks’ writing for being unscholarly and simplistic. However, she has explained the reason this is done is so she can reach as many people as possible, in as many different locations. In addition to her award for Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, hooks has received numerous awards and nominations for the 30 books she has written.