How It Feels to Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement

Ruth Feldstein, Author
Ruth Feldstein.. Oxford Univ., $29.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-1953-1403-8
Reviewed on: 12/23/2013
Release date: 12/01/2013
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-306-11817-0
Hardcover - 305 pages - 978-0-19-971827-6
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Feldstein (Motherhood in Black and White) examines the ways in which a loosely-connected group of black women mingled art and activism in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The group includes Lena Horne, Nina Simone, Miriam Makeba, Abbey Lincoln, Diahann Carroll, and Cicely Tyson— artists who played an important role in disseminating messages about the civil rights movement, asserting the rights of blacks as citizens, and renegotiating "power relations." In addition to grappling with pervasive racism, these women faced the male-dominated worlds of jazz and film, which often framed the critical reception of their work as well as the artistic choices they were allowed to make: Abbey Lincoln, for example, didn't record an album for 12 years after a critic took a disliking to her political stance. Feldstein shows how these women's actions promoted, interacted with, and anticipated both black power and second-wave feminism. Many of the battles discussed are still being fought by contemporary black artists, and Feldstein's investigation provides valuable context for the ongoing struggle, "render[ing] these social movements in all of their messy complexity and richness." Agent: Michele Rubin, Writers House. (Jan.)
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