In this classic work the famous communist activist, who was jailed for her beliefs, brings her passion and scholarship to confront three major crucial issues of feminism: women, race and class.
Black women have been aborting themselves since the earliest days of slavery. Many slave women refused to bring children into a world of interminable forced labor, where chains and floggings and sexual abuse for women were the everyday conditions of life. A doctor practicing in Georgia around the middle of the last century noticed that abortions and miscarriages were far more common among his slave patients than among the white women he treated. According to the physician, either Black women worked too hard or
"as the planters believe, the blacks are possessed of a secret by which they destroy the fetus at an early stage of gestation . . . All country practitioners are aware of the frequent complaints of planters (about the) . . unnatural tendency in the African female to destroy her offspring." Expressing shock that ". . . whole families of women fail to have any children," this doctor never considered how "unnatural" it was to raise children under the slave system. The previously mentioned episode of Margaret Garner, a fugitive slave who killed her own daughter and attempted suicide herself when she was captured by slavecatchers, is a case in point.
"She rejoiced that the girl was dead - 'now she would never know what a woman suffers as a slave" - and pleaded to be tried for murder. "I will go singing to the gallows rather than be returned to slavery!'"
In both cases, the fight for African American rights took prescedence over the rights of women. While during the first wave of feminism, black women were ignored by the suffragettes, during the second wave of feminism, black women were faced with the choice of going forward in a women's movement that, once again, didn't really include them, or supporting the rights of African Americans as a race. A difficult choice. Davis clearly elucidates the failings of the both waves of feminism to include ALL women and shows how necessary it is for women, regardless of race, to work together.