Skip to Main Content

A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States: The Womanist Movement

This guide focuses on the civil rights that various groups have fought for within the United States.

The Womanist Movement

Black women have a higher likelihood of experiencing violence, receiving lower pay, and seeing fewer media and political representations of women who look like them. Because the mainstream feminist movement does not begin to cover this one-two punch of racism and sexism, a paralleling womanist movement formed to acknowledge black women’s specific struggle for equality.

The term ‘womanist’ was coined by author and activist, Alice Walker, within her 1982 publication In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose.  

In addition to celebrating all women, womanists place special focus on issues specific to black women, men, and families. For example, Black Lives Matter was formed by four black women in response to the overwhelming police shootings of black males. Similarly, the #MeToo movement brought sexual assault to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness.

Through this movement womanists have begun to fearlessly challenge systems of oppression around the world.


Selected Library Resources:

  • Monica Coleman, Ain’t I a Womanist, Too? Third Wave Womanist Religious Thought, available as an eBook (2013) through Howard Libraries.
  • Stacey Floyd-Thomas, Deeper shades of Purple: Womanism in religion and societyBT83.9 .D44 2006 
  • Carly Gieseler, The Voices of #MeToo: From grassroots activism to a viral roar, available as an eBook (2019) through Howard Libraries
  • Christopher Lebron, The Making of Black Lives Matter: A brief history of an idea, E185.615 .L393 2017
  • Eileen Ledford, Young Black Single Mothers and the Parenting Problematic, Online Database Access
  • Courtney Pace (formally Courtney Lyons), Freedom Faith: The Civil Rights Journey of Rev. Dr. Prathia Hall, Online Database Access
  • Tiyi Morris, Womanpower Unlimited: Womanist Activism and the Civil Rights Movement in MississippiHT1581.A2 A37
  • Daphne Ntiri, Adult Literacy Reform Through a Womanist Lens, Online Database Access
  • Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother’s Garden, PS3573.A425 Z467 1983
  • Lisa A. Crooms, To Establish My Legitimate Name inside the Consciousness of Strangers: Critical Race Praxis, Progressive Women-of-Color Theorizing, and Human Rights, 46 Howard L.J. 229 (2003), available on HeinOnline

What Is: Womanism