MAKERS Profile

Beverly Guy-Sheftall

Pioneer of Black Women's Studies

In this video

Tagged as

Beverly Guy-Sheftall on creating the first women's studies program at a historically black college and the reaction to feminism in the African American community.
As one of the leading African-American feminist scholars of our time, Beverly Guy-Sheftall was instrumental in bringing the women’s studies movement to women of color, and the voices of women of color to women’s studies. Highlights from her forty-year academic career include the founding of the Women’s Research and Resource Center at Spelman College in 1981, and the co-founding of SAGE: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women in 1983. She is an important figure in what she once described to Ms. Magazine as “the stunning tradition of black female intellectualism."   Raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Guy-Sheftall has spent most of her adult life at Spelman College, the oldest historically black college for women. She entered Spelman as a student at the age of 16, where she studied English and secondary education. After receiving her Masters in English from Atlanta University and teaching briefly at Alabama State University, she returned to Spelman in 1971. She has taught there ever since, providing the leadership to create the first women’s studies major at a historically black college.   In that time, she has published a number of works on African-American women’s literature and feminism, including the first anthology on black women’s literature, Sturdy Black Bridges: Visions of Black Women in Literature (Doubleday, 1980), which she co-edited with Roseann P. Bell and Bettye Parker Smith. She is the recipient of a Kellogg National Fellowship and a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. Her most recent publication is Gender Talk: The Struggle for Equality in African American Communities [2003].

More From Beverly

The Unknown Rosa Parks
Guy-Sheftall reveals how the civil rights heroine was even more remarkable than most people ever knew. 

Educating Activists
Guy-Sheftall explains how women's studies programs feed into the broader women's movement.

Long History of Black Feminism
Guy-Sheftall talks about the remarkably long history of black feminists and the links between the abolition and suffragist movements.

A Different Range of Women's Issues
Guy-Sheftall discusses how bringing poor women and women of color into the conservation changed the meaning of a 'women's issue.'

The Celebrity Baby Bump
With a pregnant celeb on the cover of every tabloid, Guy-Sheftall considers what our culture's obsession motherhood means.

Michelle Obama
Guy-Sheftall marvels at how Michelle Obama has navigated her role as the first black First Lady.

Young Black Men and Feminism
Guy-Sheftall considers how African-American feminism purposefully brought many young men into the movement.

Not for African-American Women
Guy-Sheftall describes  the largely negative reaction to feminism in the African-American community. 

Making Unconventional Choices
Guy-Sheftall shares the advice and encouragement she gives young women to plan the lives they want, no matter how unconventional. 

Mom Wanted Grandkids
Guy-Sheftall reflects on her decision not to have children and her mother's disappointment.

Women’s Studies 2.0
Guy-Sheftall talks about how far women's studies has come with regards to women of color since its early years.