Secondary Source

Womanist Forefathers: Frederick Douglass and W. E. B. Du Bois

Gary L. Lemons. Womanist Forefathers Frederick Douglass and W. E. B. Du Bois. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009.

Era: Post-Suffrage Era | Media: Book-Non-Fiction

In Womanist Forefathers: Frederick Douglass and W. E. B. Du Bois, scholar Gary L. Lemons uses the memoirs and political writing of Douglass and Du Bois to explore their progressive politics on women’s rights. Both Douglass and Du Bois were ardent supporters of women’s suffrage.

Here’s the SUNY Press summary of Lemons’ book:

What role did African American men have in the early twentieth-century struggle for women’s suffrage? How is gender significant to the historical and contemporary struggles for African American liberation? In Womanist Forefathers, Gary L. Lemons examines the memoirs and political writings on women by Frederick Douglass and W. E. B. Du Bois, positioning these radical proponents of female equality as “womanist forefathers” to later generations of gender progressive black men. Lemons argues that the writings of Douglass and Du Bois, which merge confessional narrative with social criticism, demonstrate the power of pro-womanist thinking in the vision of racial uplift both men advanced. Womanist Forefathers then traces the lineage between these early African American activists to contemporary pro-feminist black men, many of whom have similarly combined analyses of the personal with the political to envision a black male brotherhood founded on womanist principles, free from nationalism rooted in patriarchy, heterosexism, and homophobia.

For more, check out Du Bois’ writings on suffrage in Crisis magazine, the NAACP publication he edited.

Portions of Womanist Forefathers are available for free on Google Books.

You can also buy the full book here.

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