A Web Portal For Lesbians Of Color

Barbara Smith...
Author, Activist, And Independent Scholar

"The near nonexistence of Black lesbian literature which other Black lesbians and I so deeply feel has everything to do with the politics of our lives, the total suppression of identity that all Black women, lesbians or not, must face. This literary silence is again intensified by the unavailability of an autonomous Black feminist movement through which we could fight our oppression and also begin to name ourselves."
Smith, 1998

Barbara Smith is an author and independent scholar who has played a groundbreaking role in opening a national cultural and political dialogue about the intersections of race, class, sexuality, and gender. In her innovative and pivotal work, Smith was among the first to define an African American women's literary tradition and to build Black women's studies and Black feminism in the United States. She offers a consistently fresh approach to discussing complex social problems, especially racism and other types of bigotry.

Smith is acknowledged as one of the first writers in the United States to claim black feminism for black women in the early 1970s. She has done groundbreaking work in defining a black women's literary tradition, in examining the sexual politics of the lives of women of color, in representing the lives of black lesbians and gay men, and in making connections between race, class, sexuality, and gender.

A leading feminist writer and activist since the 1960s, Barbara Smith co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, the first U.S. publisher for women of color. Smith's articles, essays and short stories have appeared in publications including Ms., The New York Times Book Review, The Black Scholar, The Nation and Gay Community News. Editor of three major collections about black women, Smith was also a general editor -- along with Wilma Mankiller, Gwendolyn Mink, Marysa Navarro and Gloria Steinem -- of The Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History.  Her numerous awards include the 1994 Stonewall Award for service to the lesbian and gay community.  Smith served on the Board of Advisors for the New York Public Library's award-winning."  She was a Scholar-in-Residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City in 1995-96 and a Fellow at the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College in 1996-97. 

She has appeared in films such as "Pink Triangles" and Marlon Riggs' "Black Is, Black Ain't". Other appearances have been on National Public Radio, MSNBC, The Pacifica Network, "Donahue", and "Charlie Rose". Her essays have appeared in numerous publications, including "The Village Voice", "Gay Community News", and "The Guardian". Her writings include "The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender, and Freedom" her work also appears in author Kris Kleindienst's "This is What Lesbian Looks Like."

Barbara Smith calls for an awareness of the works of African American lesbian writers as she calls for an awareness of the political implication that marginalizing black lesbian writers continue to make on all women's lives. As little has changed in the representations of African American lesbians in literature since the late 1970's and mid 1980's, Smith's message also has not changed. Smith continues to call for an awareness of the inextricable interconnectedness of race, class, and gender on all of our lives, and she continues to show the interconnection of literature, politics, and theory to the empowerment of black women everywhere.

"Despite the homophobic exclusion and silencing of Black lesbian writers, the creation of complex, accurate, and artistically compelling depiction of Black lesbians in literature has been and will continue to be essential to the development of African American women's literature as a whole. The assertion of Black women's rights to autonomy and freedom, which is inherent in the lives of Black lesbians which is made politically explicit in Black lesbian feminist theory and practice, has crucial implications for all women's potential liberation. Yet far too many nonlesbian Black women who are actively involved in defining the African American women's literary renaissance as critics, teachers, readers, and writers completely ignore Black lesbian existence or are actively hostile to it."

More Multimedia -- Video Clips of February 8, 2000 Presentation:  "The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender and Freedom"

An Overview of The Truth That Never Hurts (1:51)

Head Note For Book Section "A Rose" (2:26)

No Comfort Counseling Available to Black Children (1:43)

Building Movements That Are A Coalition Effort Towards A Multi-Issue Agenda (1:48)

"Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology"
Looking at Our Own Issues (5:36)

For More Visit:

"Here's the Movement, Let's Start Building":
An interview with Barbara Smith
by Kim Diehl
Kim Diehl talks to black feminist pioneer Barbara Smith about the racial politics of the Millennium March and the sexual politics of Anti-Racism.
ColorLines Magazine March 2000

Barbara Smith on the Black Radical Congress

Interview by Laurie Casdan

Editor's note: Below are excerpts from a telephone interview with Barbara Smith, Black lesbian feminist author and activist, about the Black Radical Congress held in Chicago in mid-June 1998. Smith's latest book is titled The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender and Freedom.



Interview with Writer and Activist Barbara Smith

Legendary radical Black lesbian feminist Barbara Smith talks "The Truth That Never Hurts", as she discusses her book of the same title. Making connections between women/queer liberation and the African American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, Smith traces her development as an activist, and celebrates the idealism, solidarity and passions of younger activists who keep the struggle going. -- Gail Cooper

Show Number: 183
Producers: Harriet Hirshorn and Lucretia Knapp.  Click here to view RealVideo interview




Books By Barbara Smith

Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology

The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender and Freedom

Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on AntiSemitism and Racism

This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color

All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women's Studies


Conditions is A feminist magazine of writings by women with an emphasis on writing by lesbians