Date of Award

5-1-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Department of Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. William Boone

Abstract

This study examines the impact of the triple legacy of racism, sexism, and classism on African American women’s lives, and how these “isms” have shaped black women’s consciousness and created a determination among them to be included and involved in the social, political and educational processes of this country. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (Delta) is a part of this rich legacy. The contributions of Delta and other women’s organizations to the liberation of African Americans and women can no longer be marginalized, and thus the raison d'etre for making it central to this discourse on women and politics. This study was based on the premise that throughout their history in America, black women have been political. It is a historical fact that many human and civil rights gained would not have been possible without the collective and persistent activism of women. Their steadfast efforts to confront social, economic, and political discriminations have produced historical policies such as the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, federal anti-lynching laws, Brown vs. The Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This dissertation expounds on and expands the ideology of the political black woman. This case study provides a pragmatic analysis of the significance of African American women’s organizations in attaining socio-political gains that have proven beneficial to both their race and sex. The researcher has chosen to use Delta as a representation of such organizations and as the focal point for this study, and the tenets of black feminist thought and authentic feminism, which focuses on the extricable linkage between the individual and the community, as conceptual frameworks by which to measure the significance and impact of the organization. The findings from this analysis provide answers to questions regarding the efficacy, resilience and relevance of contemporary African American women’s activism. By delineating the nexus between the private and the public spheres as they converge to shape their consciousness and activism, we better understand how the personal concerns become the political agendas of women of color, and why Delta and other women organizations have assumed the arduous role of advocates. The conclusion drawn from the findings suggest that African American women’s activism is indeed alive and well in the new millennium.

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