Sojourning for Freedom

February 14th, 2013 7:30 PM
Black History Month Special
Louis Burnham Award Fund
Sojourning for Freedom
Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism
Erik McDuffie with special guests Dorothy Burnham and Esther Cooper Jackson

Sojourning for Freedom portrays pioneering black women activists from the early twentieth century through the 1970s, focusing on their participation in the U.S. Communist Party (CPUSA) between 1919 and 1956. Erik S. McDuffie considers how women from diverse locales and backgrounds became radicalized, joined the CPUSA, and advocated a pathbreaking politics committed to black liberation, women’s rights, decolonization, economic justice, peace, and international solidarity. McDuffie explores the lives of black left feminists, including the bohemian world traveler Louise Thompson Patterson, who wrote about the “triple exploitation” of race, gender, and class; Esther Cooper Jackson, an Alabama-based civil rights activist who chronicled the experiences of black female domestic workers; and Claudia Jones, the Trinidad-born activist who emerged as one of the Communist Party’s leading theorists of black women’s exploitation. Drawing on more than forty oral histories collected from veteran black women radicals and their family members, McDuffie examines how these women negotiated race, gender, class, sexuality, and politics within the CPUSA. In Sojourning for Freedom, he depicts a community of radical black women activist intellectuals who helped to lay the foundation for a transnational modern black feminism.

Erik S. McDuffie is an Associate Professor in African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He received a B.A. in History from Hamilton College, where he minored in Africana Studies.  He earned his M.A. in History from Temple University, and his Ph.D. in History from New York University. Professor McDuffie’s research and teaching interests include black feminism, black social movements and black radicalism, black masculinity, and the African Diaspora.  He is the author of the forthcoming book, Sojourningfor Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism (Duke University Press, expected publication July 2011), and several scholarly articles in African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal, Radical History Review, and American Communist History, among others journals and edited volumes.

Dorothy Burnham is a long time civil rights activists, professor and president of the Louis E Burnham Fund.


Esther Cooper Jackson is a long time activist, writer and editor of Freedomways Magazine.

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