“The First Thing We Cry About is Violence”: The National Black Women’s Health Project and the Fight Against Rape and Battering

I am pleased to share my latest peer-reviewed article in the Spring 2022 issue of the Journal of Women’s History. This article is based upon a chapter from my recently defended dissertation. A modified version will appear in my forthcoming book, tentatively titled Between the Street and the State: Black Women’s Anti-Rape Activism Before #MeToo.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the National Black Women’s Health Project (NBWHP) conceptualized gender violence within the Black community primarily as an issue of Black women’s health. Like other gender and racial health disparities, rape and battering derived from systemic oppression and could be treated through politically engaged “self-help” counseling. This stood in contrast to the narrow framing of gender violence as a crime issue in mainstream American politics and feminist anti-violence groups. The NBWHP’s unique interpretation compelled them to oppose the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, now understood as a touchstone of carceral feminism. Attending to their overlooked activism prompts a rethinking of the intertwining of the anti-violence-against-women movement and the US carceral state in the late twentieth century. It also shows that anti-violence organizing rooted in Black feminist politics survived the conservative turn of the 1980s.

The full article is available here:

Wiesner, Caitlin Reed. ““The First Thing We Cry About is Violence”: The National Black Women’s Health Project and the Fight Against Rape and Battering.” Journal of Women’s History 34, no. 1 (2022): 71-92. doi:10.1353/jowh.2022.0001.

I’m happy to offer comments and answer questions about this article via email.

Review of “The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women’s Liberation in Mass Incarceration” by Aya Gruber

The editors of Feminist Formations recently solicited my review of Aya Gruber’s fascinating new study The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women’s Liberation in Mass Incarceration (2020).

You can find the full review here:

Wiesner, Caitlin Reed. Review of The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women’s Liberation in Mass Incarceration, by Aya Gruber. Feminist Formations 33, no. 1 (2021): 279-282. doi:10.1353/ff.2021.0013.

This important book is available for purchase from the University of California Press.

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