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346 pages, Lexington Books
November 2022
978-1-7936-1238-0 • Hardback
978-1-7936-1239-7 • eBook

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Black Women’s Rights: Leadership and the Circularities of Power

Black Women’s Rights: Leadership and the Circularities of Power presents Black women as alternative and transformative leaders in the highest political positions and at grassroots community levels. Beginning with a critique of the assumption of an equivalence between masculinity and political leadership, Carole Boyce Davies moves through the various conceptual definitions, intents, and meanings of leadership and the differences in the presentation of practices of leadership by women and feminist scholars.

She studies the actualizing of political leadership in the Presidency of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the historical role of Shirley Chisholm as the first woman to run for presidency of the United States on a leading party ticket, the promise of the Black left feminist leadership of Brazilian Marielle Franco, and the current model of Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados in advancing new leadership models from the Caribbean. This book proclaims the 21st century as the century for Black women’s leadership.

Reviews and Praises

“Carole Boyce Davies always escorts us across the geographical borders that routinely impede the development of global engagements with transformative ideas, especially theories and practices generated by Black women. This study of the politics of Black women’s leadership—in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, as well as North and South America—is yet one more example, an impressive work for its unusual expansiveness and interdisciplinary grounding in such literary genres as memoir, autobiography, and political writing.”
— Angela Y. Davis, scholar & activist, University of California, Santa Cruz

“Carole Boyce Davies gifts us with an intellectually satisfying, compelling, celebratory, yet critical encyclopedic work that dissects and reconstructs Black women’s leadership and occupation of varying polarities of power across Africa and its diasporas. She deploys an eclectic range of Black feminist analytical tools and frameworks while foregrounding pioneering leadership practices of earlier generations of women leaders. She establishes the defining historical contributions and contemporary continuities of Black women exercising power in Africa, North and South America, the United Kingdom, and the Caribbean. The analysis moves seamlessly across geographic, historical/contemporary, and disciplinary sites while assessing the power practices of nineteenth-century iconic Black women leaders, twentieth-century trailblazers, and twenty-first-century powerbrokers. This is a mandatory yet pleasurable reading in cultural studies, sociology, Black studies, Black feminist theorizing, and Black women’s leadership.”
— Eudine Barriteau, University of the West Indies

“Carole Boyce Davies has proved again why she remains one of the most respected Black feminist literary theory scholars of her generation. She continues her quest in this volume by referencing the experiences of Black women in power through biographical and autobiographical reflections, speeches, and essays to reveal why the struggle for leadership and power for Black women still continues in the 21st century. This brilliant volume reaffirms Boyce Davies as an authority on the theory of radical transnational Black women and power.”
— Nana Ayebia Clarke, Ayebia Clarke Publishing Limited

“An authoritative and compelling articulation of historical, political, legal, social, creative, and ubuntu-responsive conceptions and navigations of power, leadership, and empowerment by women of African descent. Distinguishing and celebrating past and current symbols and markers of transformative leadership in the face of unrelenting prejudice and injustice, Carole Boyce Davies forecasts the twenty-first century as the era of inclusive, equitable, and ubuntu-responsive leaderships and worlds. This rare global picturing in a single publication responds to challenges of and offers a model for studying corresponding and consonant yet dispersed experiences and enterprises of women of African descent.”
Besi Brillian Muhonja, James Madison Universit

“Pioneering feminist scholar Carole Boyce Davies’ book is a groundbreaking, cogent, meticulously researched, penetrating analysis of Black women’s political leadership around the globe, including their feminist writings and activism, in a variety of cultural contexts—Africa, U.S., Brazil, and the Caribbean. Boyce Davies challenges readers to reimagine the complexities of our engagements and entanglements with racist and patriarchal paradigms in various historical periods. Included are provocative interviews and rare portraits of powerful Black women—if maligned or neglected—including ‘alternative president’ Winnie Mandela (South Africa), Madame President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia), and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (U.S. presidential candidate).”
— Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Women’s Research & Resource Center at Spelman College

“Carole Boyce Davies is an exceptional international and interdisciplinary scholar who has written an extraordinary book on Black women and political leadership in the pan-African world. Erudite, engaging, and conceptually rich, she brilliantly critiques and celebrates women’s struggles, achievements, and aspirations in the constructions and circularities of power. It is a compelling read and represents a major contribution to studies of leadership that tend to be Eurocentric and malecentric.”
— Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, Case Western Reserve University; formerly Vice Chancellor (President), United States International University-Africa, Kenya

“To godmother a literary work is to bear the privilege of first seeing the pulse of its verse.

To comment on a literary work is to bear the privilege of first seeing the pulse of its words.

In the narrative of a Black woman intellectual, we behold the emergence of voices, the reconstruction and recreation of space-times, the axé of change.

What fascinates me about this work is the care, the reverence in the exercise, the respect for the histories reflected in the crucible of time. I accompanied Carole Boyce Davies to Ile Axé Omi Ohu Aro in Miguel Couto, Nova Iguaçu, a sacred territory led by Iyá Mãe Beata De Iemanjá, a beloved practitioner of the system of Afro-Brazilian spiritual/cultural Candomblé worship who is remembered here.Among those referenced in contemporary advancements and recognitions for the specificity of Black women’s struggles in Brazil: Benedita da Silva, who emerged from a movement in the favelas, Jurema Batista, Cida Bento- CEERT, Sueli Carneiro, Geledes in São Paulo, having produced knowledge on Black women; Marielle Franco the Afro-Brazilian political activist assassinated on March 14th, 2018, clearly for her political positions advanced as one of the most visible contemporary representations and articulations of Black Left Feminist leadership. Such projects by hopeful Black voices like this one make clear the range of versions of our history. The frame contains tense elements, but also sensitive ones. It proposes circularity, self-realization, empowerment. I thank Carole Boyce Davies for wanting to share it in such a beautiful way, opening with integrity the true path of dreams and resistance by the women here portrayed as sources of inexhaustible lived experiences, rescuing the feminine soul as instrument for human transformation.”
— Lia Viera, Poet, ASPECAB Negras, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

“The uniqueness of the Carole Boyce Davies approach as expressed in her trailblazing Black Women’s Rights: Leadership and the Circularities of Power is always how she makes complex ideas easy to understand. This book gives the reader an understanding of Black women’s political leadership in the context of our assumption that political leaders should be male. This book in its elegant analysis questions the fundamentals of male leadership which in actuality are given to males by females. From Shirley Chisholm to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to Mia Mottley in the Caribbean, Black women have now taken the mantle of leadership around the world and one can easily predict that Black women’s political leadership will continue to grow and will bring related issues to the fore. This book inspires and is strongly endorsed as it sets out the blueprint of Black women’s political leadership. It is a book that all women, but especially Black women, aspiring female leaders around the world, should see as fundamental to their lives and aspirations.”
— Siga Fatima Jagne, Commissioner Gender and Social Affairs, ECOWAS Commission

Boyce Davies focuses on the long-standing feminist concept “half the world,” first developed by Claudia Jones, which contends that women, as half the world’s population, should control half its resources and political power. The author applies this notion as the framework for her exploration of Black women’s use of legal, political, social, and creative domains to gain rights and power, particularly in Africa, although she also touches on the US, the Caribbean, and Latin America… This is an important addition to the scholarship on the political power of Black women. Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through graduate students.
— Choice Reviews

Read interview with Carole Boyce-Davies

From Book Launch at Museum of Black Civilizations, Dakar, Senegal.