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

Being Stereotyped

Being Stereotyped

More From Barbara

In this video

Smith describes the maddening burden of facing negative stereotypes her whole life.

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

Sandra Cisneros
Sandra Cisneros
Pioneering Latina Writer

Sandra Cisneros is a Mexican-American novelist, poet, and short story writer. Her books include The House on Mango Street, Caramelo, and Woman Hollering Creek. She is the recipient...

Lisa Stone
Lisa Stone
Blogger & Entrepreneur

Lisa Stone is the CEO and Co-Founder of the award-winning social hub BlogHer. Stone left a traditional journalism career at CNN for the internet in 1997 and has not looked back sin...

Beverly Guy-Sheftall
Beverly Guy-Sheftall
Pioneer of Black Women's Studies

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 th...

Julia Kaganskiy
Julia Kaganskiy
Digital Editor

Julia Kaganskiy is the Global Editor of The Creators Project, a network of digital artists around the world founded by Intel and VICE. Committed to the merging of art and technolog...