The Race for Theory: Black Women’s Literary Contributions

[By Kenton Rambsy]
Barbara Christian’s 1988 essay, “The Race for Theory” calls for black women’s writing to be included, to a greater extent, in critical discourse. Christian explains, “For me, literary criticism is promotion as well as understanding, a response to the writer to whom there is often no response, to folk who need the writing as much as they need anything. I know, from literary history, that writing disappears unless there is a response to it.”

She continues, “Because I write about writers who are now writing, I hope to ensure that their tradition has continuity and survives.” Christian’s attention to black women’s writing helped to advance black feminist concerns through literary scholarship and pays homage to writers such as Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Paule Marshall.

Over the next two weeks, the HBW Blog will focus on black women writers and their artistic representations of family, community, and sexuality. Posts will focus on a Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, a list of novels that focus on black girl protagonists, Lucille Clifton’s memoir, Zora Neale Hurston, and Sonia Sanchez.

Taken together, our blog entries respond to and extend Christian’s call for more commentary on black women’s writing. Although scholarship on African American women’s writing has flourished over the last two decades, there has been less consistent, coordinated work on black women’s writing produced on blogs and promoted on social media sites. Thus, our efforts seek to illuminate black women’s literary art while utilizing new technologies.