Newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest from MAKERS delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for new stories from trailblazing women, a big dose of inspiration, and exclusive MAKERS content.

Newsletter Confirmation

Thank you for joining! Please check your inbox for our special welcome letter
with exclusive updates from MAKERS.

MAKERS Moment

Amos & Andy

Amos & Andy

More From Barbara

In this video

Smith talks about what it was like growing up with limited black role models on television.

Barbara's Biography

Cause of Choice: Albany Family Education Alliance
Most Proud Of: Functioning with integrity and being humane in a world in which it isn't always valued.
Personal Canon: Groundbreaking and now-underappreciated novelist Ann Petry. She ranks Petry’s The Street with better-known masterpieces like Richard Wright’s Native Son.
Most Meaningful Advice Received: "You can catch more flies with honey, than you can with vinegar."

Barbara Smith and her twin sister Beverly are the products of a powerful upbringing. As young girls growing up in Cleveland, they were surrounded by an extended family made up entirely of intellectually and politically-oriented women. A librarian aunt brought books home and made the house a center for discussion and pointed political awareness. "I'm kind of a natural activist," she later told Ms. magazine. "By the time I was eight I noticed that things were not fair." Barbara joined Mount Holyoke’s class of 1969 and was quickly among a wave of scholars and critics leading in the definition of a distinctive African-American women’s literary tradition and establishing Black women’s studies in college and university curricula.
 
The new critical approach in turn informed political action and in 1974 Smith co-founded the Combahee River Collective, an early and influential Black feminist group. Her leadership made the group a conscience for different movements by calling attention to the ways racism, classism, homophobia, and sexism intersect. When feminists were ignoring issues of race, Smith was there. And when African-Americans were indulging in homophobia, she was there, too. "We understood that dealing with sexual politics didn't mean you weren't a race woman, and that speaking out about homophobia didn't mean that you didn't want to end poverty." Smith’s political action—recognized in a 2005 Nobel Peace Prize nomination—has continued to be interwoven with writing and criticism. She co-founded, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, the first US publisher of women of color, in 1980. She is currently serving her second term as a member of the Albany Common Council.

Related Videos

Tavi Gevinson
Tavi Gevinson
Fashion Blogger & Feminist

At age 11, Tavi Gevinson shocked the fashion world when her blog, Style Rookie, became one of the most popular online style guides. A mere four years later, she is a notable and st...

Diane von Furstenberg
Diane von Furstenberg
Iconic Fashion Designer

Diane Halfin, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, was just out of school and already working when she married into the House of Furstenberg in 1969. Not content to idle as Prince...

Cathy Guisewite
Cathy Guisewite
Creator of "Cathy" Comic

Cathy Guisewite is the creator and cartoonist behind the long-running nationally syndicated comic strip "Cathy," one of the first mainstream comics created by a woman. Ap...

Katharine Wolf
Katharine Wolf
Social Challenge Advisor

Katharine Wolf is an entrepreneur and investor for social good. She advises OrganJet, a company that helps transplant patients travel across the United States to receive treatment ...