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Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Ph.D., C'66, is a Pioneer of Black Feminism

April 2016

Beverly Guy SheftallBeverly Guy-Sheftall, Ph.D., is the founding director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center and the Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies. She is also adjunct professor at Emory University’s Institute for Women’s Studies where she teaches graduate courses. 

At the age of 16, she entered Spelman College where she majored in English and minored in secondary education. After graduation with honors, she attended Wellesley College for a fifth year of study in English. In 1968, she entered Atlanta University to pursue a master’s degree in English; her thesis was titled, “Faulkner’s Treatment of Women in His Major Novels.” A year later she began her first teaching job in the department of English at Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1971, she returned to her alma mater Spelman College and joined the English department.

ln her 2010 article, "The Root Interview: Beverly Guy-Sheftall on Black Feminism," In writer Akoto Ofori-Atta, wrote this of Dr. Guy-Sheftall:"

Known for her eccentricity and boldness, Beverly Guy-Sheftall has never been scared to take the brave action necessary for change. (With her fondness for bright colors and head-to-toe leopard prints, she's also not scared of taking fashion risks.) A pioneer of black feminism in the 1960s, she took the helm of black feminist studies, raging against strong sentiments that positioned black feminism as obsolete once black women gained access to the labor force. Since then she has worked tirelessly to institute black feminist studies as a legitimate discipline, and continues to do so as the founder and director of the Women's Research and Resource Center at Spelman College, where she is also the Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women's Studies."

Anita Hill with Beverly Guy-Sheftall: Reimagining Equality

On September 20, 2015, the Women's International Study Center hosted Anita Hill in conversation with Beverly Guy-Sheftall in conversation.

Dr. Guy-Sheftall has published a number of texts within African-American and women’s studies, which have been noted as seminal works by other scholars, including the first anthology on Black women’s literature, Sturdy Black Bridges: Visions of Black Women in Literature (Doubleday, 1980), which she co-edited with Roseann P. Bell and Bettye Parker Smith; her dissertation, Daughters of Sorrow: Attitudes Toward Black Women, 1880-1920 (Carlson, 1991); Words of Fire: An Anthology of African American Feminist Thought (New Press, 1995); and an anthology she co-edited with Rudolph Byrd titled Traps: African American Men on Gender and Sexuality (Indiana University Press, 2001). Dr. Guy-Sheftall coauthored Gender Talk: The Struggle for Women’s Equality in African American Communities with Spelman College President Emerita Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Ph.D. (Random House, 2003).

Gender Talk: The Struggle for Women’s Equality in African American Communities

From the Publisher Penguin/Random House

"In the Black community, rape, violence against women, and sexual harassment are as much the legacy of slavery as is racism." In Gender Talk Johnnetta Betsch Cole and Beverly Guy-Sheftall argue powerfully that the only way to defeat this legacy is to focus on the intersection of race and gender.

Examining why the “race problem” has become so male-centered and how this has opened a deep divide between Black women and men, the authors turn to their own lives, offering intimate accounts of their experiences as daughters, wives, and leaders. They examine pivotal moments in African American history when race and gender issues collided with explosive results. Along the way, they present the testimonies of a large and influential group of Black women and men, including Byllye Avery, Derrick A. Bell, Farai Chideya, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Michael Eric Dyson, Marcia Gillespie, bell hooks, and Faye Wattleton. Fearless and eye-opening, Gender Talk is required reading for anyone concerned with the future of African-American women — and men.

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