Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


James Wilson

Subject Categories

African American Studies | Other English Language and Literature | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Women's History | Women's Studies


Black Feminism, Gender Studies, Literature, Women's History, bell hooks, African American women


This thesis seeks to understand how the actions of Black women from the past have inspired the modern Black female literary movement. This thesis focuses on three historical women: Phillis Wheatley, Elizabeth Freeman, and Cathay Williams, and their literary sisters: bell hooks, Barbara Smith, and Patricia Hill Collins. By viewing the lives of these historical women through a modern-day lens, we can understand how their actions created a ripple effect that Black women are still discussing today. Black feminism did not start in a vacuum, and the actions of everyday Black women have pushed us forward to being more accepting of different ideas and understanding of being a woman. This thesis is a part of the ongoing Black feminist literature archive that continues to grow and challenge negative notions of Black women. These three historical Black women went against the status quo and challenged the normative thinking of their respective times.