My 2 Cents on the “Strong Black Woman” Archetype

I was thinking about the stereotype of the “strong black woman.”  It’s closely related to the unwed [single] Black mother.  My impression is that it denies Black women the full range of emotions– if you’re only selfless, generous, stoic and long-suffering, there is no room for anger or the desire to be loved, cherished and protected by a husband.  Frankly, it’s limiting and insulting to place that label on Black women.  [I am quite ware that there are women who willfully embrace the label, but this does not occur in a vacuüm.]  Besides, if you have to say “I’m a STRONG Black woman” you probably aren’t. Some things are self-evident.

Yes, some (if not most, but all) Black women endured hell- bought and sold as chattel, torn from husbands and children on the auction block, raped**… but this is not a contemporary or collective experience.  I do not deny that the vestiges of continual oppression, systemic discrimination and racial violence have left a scar on the memory of “the Black experience.”  [In an very USA-centric sense].  Why should we embrace this notion of a “collective” struggle [never mind the cross-cutting cleavages of class, gender, social status, geographic location, etc] to the detriment of our forward movement?

I honor the struggle of my ancestors- I recognize my grandparents’ work as members of NAACP in SW Mississippi at the height of Jim Crow.  I recognize my mother’s labor in cotton fields, and my paternal grandfather’s work as a janitor and cook in the US Army.  I would not be here without them, and I owe it to them to move forward.  This means not wallowing in excuses and poor choices.  I am capable, I am smart, I am resourceful.  I am not defeated.

I will not embrace solidarity predicated in defeatist notions of perpetual struggle.

I will not conform to essentialist constructions of Black womanhood.  I will advance with the flags of my forebears toward my God-given destiny.

**This is not an experience shared by African-Americans, descendants of African immigrants.  This article was written specifically to challenge a mindset more common among descendants of African slaves in the US.


  1. Hello, and thanks very much for the blog roll link. I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts!

  2. Thank you for such a GREAT post! I focus on the Strong Black Woman Myth as well as Black women and identity negotiation in my research and ministry work. I always say that these gender appropriations disallow women from experiencing the full range of their humanity. You are so on point with your observations. For a personal narrative on the subject, check out my blog: I’d love to hear your comments.

    PEACE! – Dr. Kim

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