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Black women are women of Sub-Saharan African and Afro-diasporic descent. The term Black is a racial classification of people, the definition of which has shifted over time and across cultures. As a result, the term Black women describes a wide range of cultural identities with several meanings around the world. Being a Black woman is also frequently described as being hit by a double whammy due to the twofold social biases encountered by Black women for being female as well a part of the Black community.[1][2][3] Due to the ways in which the two forms of bias interact, the term Black women is preferred by some over more general phrases such as women of color, especially in the United States.

Intersectionality and misogynoir

Main articles: Intersectionality and Misogynoir

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw developed the theory of intersectionality, which highlighted the overlapping discrimination faced by Black women (on the basis of both race and gender) in the United States. The theory has been influential in the fields of feminism and critical race theory as a methodology for interpreting the ways in which overlapping social identities relate to systems of oppression.[4] More recently the term misogynoir has been created to describe the specific effect of intersectionality on Black women.[5] Misogynoir is the term that is used to describe the overlapping cases of misogyny and racism. Examples of misogynoir experienced by Black women include the stereotype of the angry Black woman and vulnerability to sex trafficking among others.[2] These more specific terms were created as Black women have been historically left out of movements for both racial justice and feminist equality.[6]

Around the world

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Main article: Maputo Protocol

The 2003 Maputo Protocol on women's rights in Africa set the continental standard for progressive expansion of women's rights. It guarantees comprehensive rights to women including the right to take part in the political process, to social and political equality with men, improved autonomy in their reproductive health decisions, and an end to female genital mutilation.[7]


Women play a modest role in Ghana's two major political parties, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and New Patriotic Party (NP), as well as in the Convention People's Party (CPP). The first president, Kwame Nkrumah (CPP), made Ghana the first African nation to introduce a quota in 1959, reserving 10 seats for women in Parliament. Ghana has recently been laggard, however, with a representation of 11% women after the election in 2012 and 13% after the election in 2016.[8]


In Tunisia Black women are victims of double discrimination, facing prejudice both because of their gender and race.[9] Testimonial evidences complied by the Tunis-branch of Rosa Luxemburg Foundation presented cases of Black women being "stigmatised, hyper-sexualised, and objectified"[10] It has been noted that this sexualization of Black Tunisian women leads to them being viewed as objects by Arab men to "achieve sexual satisfaction" and face sexual harassment.[11]

The feminist movement in the Arab world—including Tunisia—has been labelled as racist, failing to take into consideration the issues of women that are not Arab; this has led to parallels between Arab feminism and White feminism.[12] In 2020, four Black Tunisian women created the Facebook group Voices of Tunisian Black Women in an attempt to bring to light these issues affecting them, which they felt were not being discussed in the Me Too movement.[9]


Further information: Afro-Caribbean people

Caribbean society

Jennifer Palmer argues that in the plantation world of the colonial Caribbean, women of color were typically treated as property owned by White men. In the French islands, race and gender shape popular assumptions about who could own property. However there were legal loopholes that sometimes opened up windows of opportunity for women of color to be landowners.[13]

United States

Further information: African Americans

American slavery

Main article: Slavery in the United States

Black slaves, many of whom were women, were often abused by their owners and other White people.[14] This abuse extended beyond the physical and psychological abuse directly related to how slaves were treated, and include the exploitation of Black women slaves in order to advance different scientific practices and techniques.[citation needed] Black female slaves were sexually abused by White men and were forced to breed with their White male slave masters to bear mulatto children to maintain White supremacy, have more slaves to pick cotton and produce superior slaves in the South.[15] Black female slaves received the same treatment in Brazil, Central America, Mexico, Peru and the Caribbean.[16][17] An example of this is former president and slave owner Thomas Jefferson who fathered mixed-race children with Sally Hemings.[18] Black slave women and their bodies were also fetishized by their white male slave owners.[19][20]

Increased risk for health problems

Black women are often at a higher risk to contract these diseases than White women, but they also are at a higher risk to die from them as well. According to the American Cancer Society, the death rate for all cancers for Black women is 14% higher than that of White women.[21] While the probability of being diagnosed with cancer in Black women is one in three, the chance of dying from cancer is one in five.[21] Cancer is not the only disease that disproportionately affects African-American women. Lupus is two-three times more common in women of color, but more specifically one in every 537 Black women will have lupus.[22] Black women are also at a higher chance of being overweight thus making them open to more obesity-related diseases.[23] There is also a racial disparity when it comes to pregnancy related deaths. While there are 12.4 deaths for every 100,000 births for White women, the statistics for Black women is 40.0 deaths for every 100,000 births.[24] In a 2007 US study of five medical complications that are common causes of maternal death and injury, Black women were two to three times more likely to die than White women who had the same condition.[25] The World Health Organization in 2014 estimated that Black expectant and new mothers in the United States die at about the same rate as women in countries such as Mexico and Uzbekistan.[26] A 2018 study found that "The sexual and reproductive health of African-American women has been compromised due to multiple experiences of racism, including discriminatory healthcare practices from slavery through the post-Civil Rights era."[27] Another 2018 study found that darker skin tones were underrepresented in medical textbook imagery and that these omissions "may provide one route through which bias enters medical treatment".[28]


Main article: Afro-Brazilians

Black women make up 28% of the Brazilian population and still suffer discrimination in Brazil. The legacy of slavery and mistreatment of Black women during the Portuguese colonial era is still dealt with today.[29][30] Interracial marriage between Black women and white Portuguese men was common in Brazil.[31] Black women were often raped by white men in Brazil in effort to whiten the Brazilian population.[32]

Famous leaders

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (September 2021)

Some of the most important[clarification needed] artistic and political leaders in history have been Black women. For instance, Queen Qalhata and Candace of Meroe are important, early African queens.[33][34]

Thus far 21 Black women have been elected or appointed as head of a UN recognised state, all of which have been in Africa or in the Caribbean. The first Black woman to be appointed head of state, was Elisabeth Domitien who served as the Prime Minister of the Central African Republic from January 1975 to April 1976. The longest serving Black woman head of government was Eugenia Charles who served as the head of government for Dominica for nearly 15 years, from July 1980 to June 1995. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf served as President of Liberia for 12 years.[35]

In 2021, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the first Black woman to lead a major multilateral organisation, when she was appointed Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

Four Black women have been awarded Nobel Prizes. Toni Morrison was the first Black woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize, when in 1993 she was awarded the prize for literature. Wangari Maathai was the first Black woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize which she received in 2004. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.

In the United States, Toni Morrison was the first Black woman Nobel laureate. Shirley Chisholm was an important Democratic candidate for U.S. President in the 1970s. In the 2020 United States presidential election, Kamala Harris was named Joe Biden's running mate, making her the first Black woman to be on a major party ticket. Biden won the election, making Harris the first Black person and Black woman to be Vice President of the United States.[36] With Justice Stephen Breyer's announcement of his intention to retire at the end of the 2021-22 term, President Joe Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson to succeed him as Supreme Court justice.[37] She was confirmed by the United States Senate in a 53-47 vote on April 7, 2022 and took her seat on June 30, 2022.[38]

LGBT black women

Main article: African-American LGBT community

23% of young black women identity as bisexual in the United States.[39] Black women are increasingly bisexual.[40] Lesbian marriage is also increasing among black women.[41] Black trans women often face high levels of discrimination.[42][43][44]

See also


  1. ^ Wood, Vicky (March 11, 1982). "Double Whammy For Black Women: Racism & Sexism". Washington Post. Retrieved October 17, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Page, Cheryl (January 1, 2019). "The Double Whammy of Being Female and African-American: How Black Women are More Vulneralbe to Trafficking and Other Forms of Discrimination". Journal Publications.
  3. ^ Logan, Stephanie; Dudley, Harriette. The "Double-Whammy" of Being Black and a Woman in Higher Education Leadership.
  4. ^ Adewunmi, Bim (April 2, 2014). "Kimberlé Crenshaw on intersectionality: "I wanted to come up with an everyday metaphor that anyone could use"". New Statesman. Retrieved June 30, 2020.
  5. ^ "Misogynoir: where racism and sexism meet". the Guardian. October 5, 2015. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  6. ^ "The Routledge Companion to Black Women's Cultural Histories". Routledge & CRC Press. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  7. ^ Christine Ocran, "The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa." African Journal of International and Comparative Law 15.1 (2007): 147-152.
  8. ^ Diana Højlund Madsen, "Gender, Power and Institutional Change–The Role of Formal and Informal Institutions in Promoting Women’s Political Representation in Ghana." Journal of Asian and African Studies 54.1 (2019): 70–87.
  9. ^ a b Bajec, Alessandra (November 19, 2020). "Giving a voice to Tunisia's Black women, victims of double discrimination". Radio France Internationale. Archived from the original on February 20, 2021. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  10. ^ Bajec, Alessandra (December 29, 2020). "The Black Tunisian women fighting 'double discrimination'". openDemocracy. Archived from the original on January 23, 2021. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  11. ^ ElHajjaji, Chouaib (April 17, 2018). "Black Tunisian women: ceaseless erasure and post-racial illusion". openDemocracy. Archived from the original on January 26, 2021. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  12. ^ Alghoul, Diana (April 1, 2017). "Why is the Arab feminist movement so racist?". Middle East Monitor. Archived from the original on November 12, 2020. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  13. ^ Jennifer L. Palmer, "The fruits of their labours: Race, gender and labour in the eighteenth-century French Caribbean." French History 32.4 (2018): 471-492.
  14. ^ Greenberg, Kenneth S; White, Deborah Gray; Harris, J. William (1987). "Black Women and White Men in the Antebellum South". Reviews in American History. 15 (2): 252. doi:10.2307/2702176. JSTOR 2702176.
  15. ^ "Slavery in the U.S. | Boundless US History".
  16. ^ see "American Slavery in Comparative Perspective" (2019)online
  17. ^ David Gaspar and Darlene Clark Hine, eds. More than chattel: Black women and slavery in the Americas (Indiana University Press, 1996).
  18. ^ Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings
  19. ^ "Commodification of the Black Body, Sexual Objectification and Social Hierarchies during Slavery" (PDF).
  20. ^ "The Colonial Roots of the Racial Fetishization of Black Women".
  21. ^ a b "Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans" (PDF).
  22. ^ "Lupus facts and statistics". Lupus Foundation of America. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  23. ^ Gillum, Richard F. (1987–2008). "Overweight and Obesity in Black Women: A Review of Published Data From The National Center for Health Statistics". Journal of the National Medical Association. 79 (8): 865–871. ISSN 0027-9684. PMC 2625572. PMID 3508218.
  24. ^ "Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System | Maternal and Infant Health | CDC". August 7, 2018. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  25. ^ Tucker, Myra J.; Berg, Cynthia J.; Callaghan, William M.; Hsia, Jason (2007). "The Black–White Disparity in Pregnancy-Related Mortality From 5 Conditions: Differences in Prevalence and Case-Fatality Rates". American Journal of Public Health. American Public Health Association. 97 (2): 247–251. doi:10.2105/ajph.2005.072975. ISSN 0090-0036. PMC 1781382. PMID 17194867.
  26. ^ Organization, World Health (May 12, 2014). "World health statistics 2014: a wealth of information on global public health". hdl:10665/112739. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  27. ^ Prather, Cynthia; Fuller, Taleria R.; Jeffries, William L.; Marshall, Khiya J.; Howell, A. Vyann; Belyue-Umole, Angela; King, Winifred (September 24, 2018). "Racism, African American Women, and Their Sexual and Reproductive Health: A Review of Historical and Contemporary Evidence and Implications for Health Equity". Health Equity. 2 (1): 249–259. doi:10.1089/heq.2017.0045. ISSN 2473-1242. PMC 6167003. PMID 30283874.
  28. ^ Louie, Patricia; Wilkes, Rima (April 2018). "Representations of race and skin tone in medical textbook imagery". Social Science & Medicine. 202: 38–42. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.02.023. PMID 29501717.
  29. ^ Black Women Are Now the Largest Group in Brazil's Public Universities
  30. ^ Newman-Bremang, Kathleen. "The Danger Of Being A Black Woman In Brazil". Refinery29.
  31. ^ "Racial Intermarriage in the Americas: Comparing Brazil, Cuba and the United States".
  32. ^ Funari, Pedro Paulo A.; Hall, Martin; Jones, Sian (March 7, 2013). Historical Archaeology: Back from the Edge - Page 329. ISBN 9781134816163.
  33. ^ Vercoutter, Jean (January 1, 1976). The Image of the Black in Western art. Morrow. ISBN 9780688030865.
  34. ^ Walker, Robin (January 1, 2006). When We Ruled: The Ancient and Mediœval History of Black Civilisations. Every Generation Media. ISBN 9780955106804.
  35. ^ "Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf". Forbes.
  36. ^ Lerer, Lisa; Ember, Sydney (November 7, 2020). "Kamala Harris Makes History as First Woman and Woman of Color as Vice President". The New York Times. Retrieved November 14, 2020.
  37. ^ Lerer, Lisa; Ember, Sydney (February 25, 2022). "President Biden Nominates Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to Serve as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court". The White House. Retrieved March 24, 2022.
  38. ^ Hulse, Carl; Karni, Annie (April 7, 2022). "The Senate confirms Jackson, elevating the first Black woman to the Supreme Court". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 7, 2022.
  39. ^ "23% of young black women now identify as bisexual". June 14, 2019.
  40. ^ "Why Are Black Women Increasingly Identifying as Bisexual?".
  41. ^ "'Black Women Are Marrying—We're Marrying Each Other:' Lesbian Marriage Grows as Black Women Defy Marriage Trends".
  42. ^ "United States: Transgender People at Risk of Violence". November 18, 2021.
  43. ^ "America's War on Black Trans Women | Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review".
  44. ^ "Black trans communities suffer a greater mental-health burden from discrimination and violence".

Further reading