7 black women perfectly describe what it means to be a feminist


From 19th century author Anna Julia Cooper, who saw the agency of black women as central to gaining equality in America, to actress and singer Zendaya, who urges all women to let their voices be heard, take a look at how a handful of black women have defined feminism for the past several centuries.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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"My own definition is a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there's a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better," she wrote in her book, We Should All Be Feminists. "All of us, women and men, must do better."

Audre Lorde

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"I am a black feminist. I mean I recognize that my power as well as my primary oppressions come as a result of my blackness as well as my womaness, and therefore my struggles on both of these fronts are inseparable," she wrote in her essay "I am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities."

Kimberlé Crenshaw

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"In every generation and in every intellectual sphere and in every political moment, there have been African-American women who have articulated the need to think and talk about race through a lens that looks at gender, or think and talk about feminism through a lens that looks at race. So this is in continuity with that," Crenshaw told the New Statesman in 2014.

Anna Julia Cooper


"Let us insist then on special encouragement for the education of our women and special care in their training," Cooper wrote in 1892 in her book, A Voice from the South. "Let our girls feel that we expect something more of them than that they merely look pretty and appear well in society. Teach them that there is a race with special needs which they and only they can help; that the world needs and is already asking for their trained, efficient forces. Finally, if there is an ambitious girl with pluck and brain to take the higher education, encourage her to make the most of it. Let their be the same flourish of trumpets and clapping of hands as when a boy announces his determination..."

Roxane Gay

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"I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human," Gay wrote in Bad Feminist. "I am messy. I'm not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I'm right. I am just trying — trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself."

Angela Davis

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"Feminism involves so much more than gender equality and it involves so much more than gender," she wrote in her book, Freedom is a Constant Struggle in 2015. "So it has to involve a consciousness of capitalism and racism and colonialism and post-colonialities, and ability and more genders than we can even imagine and more sexualities than we ever thought we could name."


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"Now is such a pivotal time in our history," she said in 2016 during her the Glamour Women of Year Awards acceptance speech. "It's such a pivotal, crazy time, and I want you to know — all you ladies up there — you are the leaders. We are the future. We need you. We need every single one of you in this room. You are needed to step up to the plate, right here, right now, and let your voice be heard. This is the time."