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Black women are women of sub-Saharan African and Afro-diasporic descent, as well as women of Australian Aboriginal[1] and Melanesian 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.

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.[2] More recently, the term misogynoir has been created to describe the specific effect of intersectionality on Black women.[3] 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 or Jezebel (stereotype that black women are more sexually promiscuous) and vulnerability to sex trafficking among others.[4] These more specific terms were created as Black women have been historically left out of movements for both racial justice and feminist equality.[5]

Womanism is a social theory based on the history and experiences of black women. Coined by Alice Walker, the concept now encompasses a spectrum of various fields, such as Africana womanism and womanist theology.[6]

Around the world

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


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 participate in the political process, social and political equality with men, autonomy in their reproductive health decisions, and an end to female genital mutilation (FGM).[7]


Women in Ghana have been experiencing poverty at higher rates than their male counterparts as a result of less educational opportunities, elevated unemployment rates, and gender inequality.[8] Historically, Ghanaian culture has created the role of women to be in the home cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children.[9] Ghanaian women, on average, complete only primary school as a result of these societal expectations.[8] Men are primarily regarded as breadwinners and have more economic mobility as a result of their ability to carry on the family name and amass ownership of land, one of the highest forms of capital.[10] These societal conditions originated from European colonization of Ghana from the 15th century up until the 20th century.[11] The structural frameworks set up during those five centuries favored Eurocentric beauty standards, work ethic, and culture.[11] This fractured Ghanaian identity and customs, leading to harmful practices such as providing space for only men to further their education, secure a well-paying job, and be politically active. Some other examples includ only teaching women how to be suitable for men,[10] and promoting skin bleaching among women to become closer to whiteness.[11] After Ghana gained their independence in 1957 from Britain, women were not compensated for their inability to own land and gain foundational skills under colonial frameworks, creating the cycle of poverty.[11]

Ghana's patriarchal society, stemming from colonialism, has been impacting women not only economically but relationally as well.[10] Abuse is a prevalent component of polygamous and monogamous relationships in Ghana.[12] This normalization of domestic violence lends itself to the topic of sex trafficking in Ghana and how women are objectified through the male gaze and ultimately abused.[10] Sex trafficking in Ghana is very common as a result of poverty and lack of education and employment skills.[10] It can be hard for women to get out of being a sex worker because it might be viewed as the only way to provide for their families or themselves. The criminalization of sex work in Ghana also makes it difficult for women to escape abuse from their pimps and customers and seek help.[10]

Another factor that plays a role in the susceptibility of women being in poverty is the rise in female-headed households as a result of divorce, women becoming widows, or women being separated from their partners.[13] This has exacerbated the issue of poverty among women because they're unable to have access to the benefits of the socio-economic status men hold in Ghana.[13]

Economically, the majority of Ghanaian women are in the informal sector of Ghana's economy, meaning they are mostly self-employed.[13] Self-employment doesn't always guarantee a stable source of income, making it hard for women to make enough money to support themselves and their families.[13] Some of the prominent entrepreneurial jobs women take up in Ghana are hairdressing, dressmaking,[13] market trading,[14] and agriculture.[8] Market trading, especially, has been a good way for women to better their chances of getting out of poverty[14] because they are given the opportunity to take part in credit services, acquire insurance on their personal items, and build their savings.[15] According to Wrigley-Asante in her journal article, "Market women are considered the backbone of food distribution, ensuring food security for the urban economy".[14] Ghanaian women are very important contributors to Ghana's economy despite not having access to steady wages.[14]

Ghana's government has made strides to address the inequalities present within the culture by creating the WID (women in development) initiative in the 70's to cater to women's welfare, SAP (structural adjustment programs) in the 80's to help women in their productivity, and PAMSCAD (Program of Action to Mitigate the Social Costs of Adjustment) in the late 80's and early 90's to help boost the socioeconomic status of Ghanaian women.[13] These initiatives and programs ultimately failed because they were not addressing the root cause of poverty among women, and colonialism's lasting impacts has rendered the Ghanaian government ill-prepared to give the necessary resources to such complex programs.[16]

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.[17]


In Tunisia, Black women are victims of double discrimination, facing prejudice both because of their gender and race.[18] Testimonial evidences complied by the Tunis-branch of Rosa Luxemburg Foundation presented cases of Black women being "stigmatised, hyper-sexualised, and objectified"[19] 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.[20]

The feminist movement in the Arab world—including Tunisia—has been labelled as racist, failing to take into consideration the issues of women who are not Arab; this has led to parallels between Arab feminism and White feminism.[21] 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.[18] Khawla Ksiksi, one of the group's founders, has stated that comments made by President Kais Saied in 2023 regarding Sub-Saharan migrants has worsened living conditions for Black Tunisians, with many Black Tunisian women participating in the "Carrying My Papers Just In Case" trend.[22]


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.[23]

United States

Further information: African Americans

According to the American Community Survey from the US Census Bureau, the Black female population in the United States was 21.7 million in 2018. [24]

American slavery

Main articles: Slavery in the United States and Treatment of slaves in the United States

Black slaves, many of whom were women, often faced severe abuse from their owners and other non-black people.[25] Black female slaves were sexually abused by their white male owners and were bred with them in order to bear mulatto children in an attempt to maintain White supremacy, have more slaves to pick cotton and produce superior slaves in the South.[26] Black female slaves received the same treatment in Brazil, Central America, Mexico, Peru and the Caribbean.[27][28] An example of this is former president and slave owner Thomas Jefferson who fathered mixed-race children with Sally Hemings, a slave that he owned.[29] Black slave women and their bodies were also fetishized by their white male slave owners.[30][31]

Enslaved black women had no legal means to protect and prevent themselves from sexual assault by white men and their white slave owners. In 1855 in Missouri, an enslaved Black woman named Celia was convicted of murder and executed by hanging for killing a white man who had raped and enslaved her. The court had rejected her self-defense claim, stating that enslaved Black women had no right to resist their white enslavers’ sexual advances. Black women were also killed and lynched by white people. In May 1870, 15 white men raped a Black woman while other members of the white mob lynched and killed her husband.[32]


According to State of Women Owned Business report of 2020, Black women are the fastest growing entrepreneur group in the United States,[33] creating many innovative businesses across the nation.[33] Despite their entrepreneurial achievements, Black women continue to face racism and discriminatory barriers in business buildings.[34]


According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Black women are among the most educated in the United States of America.[35][36]

Self-Esteem and Confidence

Black women have higher self-confidence and self-esteem than any group of women, according to a survey by Glamour and L’Oreal Paris, along with Dr. Jean Twenge, Ph.D., a researcher on the effects of race and self-confidence. Racism and discrimination haven’t created a downturn in how Black women view themselves.[37] Black women also have a more positive outlook on their physical appearances versus white women.[38] This self-esteem and confidence is celebrated in what is known as "Black Girl Magic".


Black women’s hair, which is of various textures,[39] has deep cultural meanings, ranging from political statements to pride, beauty, and fashion.[40] Despite there being a lack of education in Black American hair and why Black women choose particular hairstyles and products, cosmetologists and educators have paved the way for greater education in this area, for example, bringing awareness to the fact that Black hair doesn’t create its own oil like white hair does which creates a need for Black women’s hair to be treated with moisturizers and oils for it to remain healthy.[39][41][42]

Because of greater education in Black women’s hair, the United States Army lifted a ban on dreadlocks, which were previously banned.[43] The Navy, Air Force, and Army now allow two-strand twists as well as braids at an increased size.[44] The latter change came after a fight against hair discrimination.

Increased risk for health problems

Black women are often at a higher risk of contracting certain diseases than White women are. According to the American Cancer Society, the death rate for all cancers for Black women is 14% higher than that of White women.[45] 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.[45] Cancer is not the only disease that disproportionately affects African-American women. Black women are three times more likely to develop uterine fibroids. Lupus is two-three times more common in women of color, but more specifically, one in every 537 Black women will have lupus.[46] Black women are also at a higher chance of being overweight thus making them open to more obesity-related diseases.[47] 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.[48] 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.[49] 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.[50] 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."[51] 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".[52] Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer.[53] Black women are also more likely to die from diabetes.[54] Black women have higher rates of HIV than white and Hispanic women.[55] Black women have the highest risk for genital herpes.[56] Black women also have higher rates of chlamydia than white women.[57] Trichomoniasis is more common among African American women.[58] Black women are more likely to die from cervical cancer.[59]

Discrimination, racism and sexism put black women at risk for low-income jobs, multiple role strain and health problems which is associated with mental illnesses.[60] Black women with depression are more likely to experience sleep disturbances, self-criticism, and irritability.[61]

60% of black women have been molested or sexually abused before age 18 by a black man.[62]


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.[63][64] Interracial marriage between Black women and white Portuguese men was common in Brazil.[65] Black women were often raped by white men in Brazil in effort to whiten the Brazilian population.[66]

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.[67][68]

Thus far, 21 Black women have been elected or appointed as head of a UN recognized state, all of which have been in Africa or 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.[69]

In 2021, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the first Black woman to lead a major multilateral organization when she was appointed Director-General of the World Trade Organization.[70]

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.[71] Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Tawakkol Karman in 2011.[72]

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 and South Asian woman to be on a major party ticket. Biden won the election, making Harris the first Black/South Asian person and Black/South Asian woman to be Vice President of the United States.[73] 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.[74] 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.[75]

As leaders in the Civil Rights movements over the course of time, Ida B. Wells led an anti-lynching movement in the United States of America and founded the Alpha Suffrage Club.[76] Betsy Stockton paved the way for non-royals in Hawaii to gain access to an education by founding the first non-Royal school in Maui and all of Hawaii in 1823.[77]

LGBT black women

Main article: African-American LGBT community

One survey found that 23% of black women aged 18 to 34 identify as bisexual in the United States.[78] Black women are increasingly identifying as bisexual.[79] Lesbian marriage is also increasing among black women.[80] Black trans women often face high levels of discrimination.[81][82][83]


See also: Discrimination based on skin color

Black women often experience both racism and sexism.[84][85][86]

Dark-skinned black women often face more discrimination than light-skinned black women due to colorism. When Black women were enslaved in America, the sexual assault of Black women produced light-skinned children, who were afforded more privileges than their darker skinned mothers, although they were seldom acknowledged as legitimate children.[87] Light-skinned black women have more privileges and advantages than dark-skinned black women.[88] Lighter skinned black women are also more likely to be married than dark-skinned black women because light skin is associated with status and beauty.[87] Light-skinned black women are more represented in the media than dark-skinned black women.[89]

Studies of human attractiveness have consistently shown that black women are rated as less attractive than white, Asian and Latina women in the United States.[90] In studies of heterosexual men's preferences in the United States, black women are the least desired group of women, followed by white women and Latina women, while Asian women are the most desired women.[91][92][93][94] However, black men showed a strong preference for black women in dating, preferring them over white women.[91] Nevertheless they still preferred Asian women over black women,[95] and Asian, Latino and White men preferred any race over black women.[91] It has been proposed that discrimination against black women in dating is linked to anti-black stereotypes in the media.[92] Black women have also long been viewed as more 'sexual' than other races of women (a phenomenon known as the 'Jezebel' stereotype) which can make men less interested long term relationships with black women.[96]

Transgendered black women are more likely to get killed due to discrimination and transphobia.[97]


Further information: Stereotypes of African Americans

Minstrel shows often portrayed African American women as loud, masculine, aggressive, naive, subserviently-caring, and obnoxious.[98] Black women were also stereotyped and portrayed as promiscuous Jezebels.[99] Black women are also often stereotyped to be poor, uneducated, young, overweight, single mothers who are gold diggers and welfare queens.[100]

See also


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  2. ^ 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.
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Further reading