Print Media & Black Feminisms of 1979

Courtesy of the Barnard Center for Research Women; "Nubian Woman" cover image reprinted with permission of Brenda Haywood.

SOPHIA RICHARDS

Letter from the Editor:

This project began to take shape after my first visit to the Schomburg center, where I was nonchalantly flashed a cover of Ms. magazine from 1979, which featured Michele Wallace on the cover.

shangepage5

Reprinted by permission of Ms. magazine, (c)1972

When we learn about history, we tend to do so in monocultures: one group thought one way, while another uniformly disagreed. But when we think about our lived political landscapes, we understand the extent to which umbrella terms fail to describe us, and, as we know well, history is written by the victors. I was surprised to see Michele Wallace on Ms., because even at the zenith of third-wave feminism, we’re still struggling to shoot diverse magazine covers — and even when we do, unacceptable controversies like these still slip through the cracks. Even today, when a black woman graces the cover of a glossy, historically white women’s mag, everyone freaks out, and the publication acts like it’s the first time it’s ever happened. To an extent, I believed it. I mean, Harper’s Bazaar has had zero covergirls of color all year. So I was surprised to see Michele Wallace, not even a model or actress but a challenging, feminist, academic writer blown up on the cover of a mainstream magazine at the tail end of the second wave.

Courtesy of the Barnard Center for Research Women; "Nubian Woman" cover image reprinted with permission of Brenda Haywood.

Courtesy of the Barnard Center for Research Women; “Nubian Woman” cover image reprinted with permission of Brenda Haywood.

I went to the Ms. office in Beverly Hills over my spring break, and spent a whole day taking photos and combing through their 70’s back issues. Was the Michele Wallace cover an anomaly? What authority did the white Ms. editors feel over the text of Wallace’s book, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman, which justified her cover, and was fueled almost entirely from conflagrations in the relationships between black women and black men?

The Black World Foundation

The Black World Foundation

I have never stopped feeling childlike pleasure with print in my hands, but even for those who are numb to it, magazines are historical artifacts — primary documents from not just one source, but forty. And in a pre-internet era, they are evidence of the real-time gathering together of bodies. This is especially visible in nonprofit and small presses; in Conditions or Heresies, the archival document is the result of women’s handiwork in a ultra-specific place and time, and ought to be read as such.

It is the policy of the Heresies Collective to allow reprints of materials from our publication since (a.) it is collectively created and constructed; and (b) All authors and artists whose work is included agree to this policy ‐‐ and with the idea that our political priority at the time of publication is to get this material the widest circulation possible.

It is the policy of the Heresies Collective to allow reprints of materials from our publication since (a.) it is collectively created and constructed; and (b) All authors and artists whose work is included agree to this policy ‐‐ and with the idea that our political priority at the time of publication is to get this material the widest circulation possible.

It is the policy of the Heresies Collective to allow reprints of materials from our publication since (a.) it is collectively created and constructed; and (b) All authors and artists whose work is included agree to this policy ‐‐ and with the idea that our political priority at the time of publication is to get this material the widest circulation possible.

It is the policy of the Heresies Collective to allow reprints of materials from our publication since (a.) it is collectively created and constructed; and (b) All authors and artists whose work is included agree to this policy ‐‐ and with the idea that our political priority at the time of publication is to get this material the widest circulation possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I started looking at publications from the entire span of the 1970s, downsized to 1975-1980, and finally to just 1979, where I felt like I could provide a decently comprehensive selection from that year. I’ve included virulent anti-feminist articles like Robert Staples’ infamous “The Myth of Black Macho: A Response to Angry Black Feminists,” Tiger Beat-esque pages of Jet, visceral poetry from famous writers like Audre Lorde to anonymous single mothers, glamorous celebrations of black beauty, painfully targeted ads, and academic articles which prove that contemporary political “buzzwords” are not trendy or newfangled at all. As you flip through these pages, there’s information to be gleaned from focusing on design elements as well as spending time with the actual text (which can be enlarged by clicking on the images). I hope that you leave this project with a more comprehensive understanding of what print can do and be, what black women were saying about themselves at this particular point in history, and renewed hope for the potential of print to give life to communities today.

—Sophia Richards

 

Publisher’s Note: Sophia’s original online zine, comprised of some fifty+ entries, posed a permissions/licensing challenge, so we replaced it with her Editor’s letter, a few images emblematic of her work, and the Table of Contents which we encourage you to explore for insight into black feminisms in the ‘70s.

  1. Editor’s letter

2 -3. Smith, Barbara, and Smith, Beverly. “’I Am Not Meant to Be Alone and Without You Who Understand’ Letters from Black Feminists 1972-1978.” Conditions, no. 4 (1979): 62. 

  1. “the salsa soul sisters” originally published in Off Our Backs, November 1979. Black Lesbians in the 80’s @ Lesbian Herstory Archives, 2014. Obtained via the Barnard Zine Archives.
  1. “Daughters of Malcom X and MLK: Stage-Struck Duo.” Ebony, May 1979.
  1. Nappy Edges Ad. Quest: a feminist quarterly, Summer 1979: 97. 
  1. Osbey, Brenda Marie. “Mama (for Lois E. Hamilton.” Callaloo, no. 5 (1979): 29. 
  2. “Beauty and the Bus,” Greyhound Bus Ad. Ebony, August 1979. 

9.-13 Staples, Robert. “The Myth of Black Macho: A Response to Angry Black Feminists.” The Black Scholar, Vol. 10. No. 6/7 (1979): 24. 

  1. -15   Norment, Lynn. “The Outrageous Grace Jones.” Ebony, July 1979: 84.
  1.   “”The Vicki Tapes.” Heresies, no. 6 (1979): 9. 
  1. Taylor, Ted. “Ask A Man.” Right On!, June 1979. Obtained from the Research and Reference Division of the Schomburg Center for Research on Black Culture, Call No. Sc Ser.-M .R544 v. 8, no. 1-12 (Oct. 1978-Sept. 1979).
  2.   “Paulette Marshall: In Celebration.” Essence, May 1979. 
  1.   “No Bones To Pick.” JET, February 1, 1979: 37. 
  1.  Shange, Ntozake. “is not so gd to be born a girl” originally published in The Black Scholar, May-June 1979. Black Lesbians in the 80’s @ Lesbian Herstory Archives, 2014. Obtained via the Barnard Zine Archives.
  1.   “Is Your Kid Living In a Dream World?.” Ebony, February 1979: 72. 
  2.  Cover Image. Heresies, no. 8 (1979): ii. 
  3.  “Editorial Statement.” Heresies, no. 8 (1979): 1. 
  4.  Harris, Valerie. “Power Exchange 2: Barbara Ann Teer.” Heresies, no. 8 (1979):
  5.   “supermaxCurlytop ad.” Essence, May 1979. 
  6.  “The Violence of Power: The Genital Mutilation of Females.” Heresies, no. 6 (1979): 28. 
  1.   Lorde, Audre. “Man Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist’s Response ’Not Only Of a Relationship, But Of Relating.” Conditions, no. 4 (1979): 31. 

28.-29.  “Young, Gifted And Black, She Heads California College.” Ebony, June 1979: 76.

  1. -36  Shange, Ntozake. “Black & White Two-Dimensional Planes.” Callaloo, no. 5 (1979): 56. 
  2.   “Atoka, Tennessee.” Heresies, no. 8 (1979): 118. 
  3.  The Vicki Tapes.” Heresies, no. 6 (1979): 5. 
  1.  Finney, Nikky. “For G. W.: Who Defined Mentor.” Callaloo, no. 5 (1979): 28. 
  2.  “Friends of Mabel Hampton (b. 1902).” Heresies, no. 8 (1979): 33. 

41.-42    Flowers, Yvonne A. “On Never Quite Being Good Enough: Legal Institutional Racism, Sexism and Elitism.” Heresies, no. 8 (1979): 31. 

  1.  Penn, William H. Sr. “The 70th NAACP Annual Convention.” The Crisis, October,1979: 323. 

44.-45.   Sapphire. “New York City Tonight.” Heresies, no. 6 (1979): 98. 

  1.  Michele Wallace Ms. Cover. Digital image. Ms. Magazine Blog. February 16, 2011. 
  1. -48   Powell, Linda C. “Review of Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman.” Conditions, no. 4 (1979): 165. 
  1.  Shange, Ntozake. “with no immediate cause.” Heresies, no. 6 (1979): 12. 
  1.  Cover image. Conditions, no. 5 (1979): i. 
  2. “Hair: The Naturals.” Essence, July 1979. 
  3.   Dworkin, Andrea. “Biological Superiority: The World’s Most Dangerous Idea.” Heresies, no. 6 (1979): 47. 
  1.   “Domestic Workers Association, May 19-22, 1938. Chicago. Miss Robinson and a group of workers.” Heresies, no. 7 (1979): 55. 
  2.  Malveaux, Julianne. “Three Views of Black Women— The Myths, the Statistics, and a Personal Statement.” Heresies, no. 8 (1979): 50. 
  3.   Virginia Slims Ad. JET, January 4, 1979. 
  1.  Esteves, Sandra Maria. “Music Is My Lover (for Ntozake Shange).” Heresies, no. 8 (1979): 67. 
  1.   Dedication. The Black Sash, February, 1979. 
  2.  Ambi Skin Cream Ad. Essence, May 1979. 
  3.  Rawls, Melanie A. “Toast.” Callaloo, no. 5 (1979): 106. 

 

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