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African American Women’s Sociohistorical Perspectives in “Sister Outsider” by Audre Lorde


In “Sister Outsider,” Audre Lorde discusses the complex nature of African American women, applying the sociohistorical approach to let the readers observe the intersectional relationship between racism, classism, and sexism. In the first 51 pages of the book, Lorde elaborates on topics like silence-to-words-to-action, the obstacles to women and love, and the role of poetry for those groups marginalized by society. This paper attempts to address the whole message of the readings: systematic oppression that shapes African American women’s lives, Black-womanness discourse, and treatment of Black women during slavery and post-emancipation.

Main Points of the Readings

According to Lorde (2012), it is urgent to break the silence that surrounds all the experiences of marginalized groups. In “Notes from Trips to Russia,” she writes about her experiences with racism and the need for solidarity between oppressed people across the world. The chapter “Poetry is not a luxury” accentuates the transformative character of poetry as a means of self-expression and resistance. The transformation of silence into language and action looks into the moral imperative of being a voice for the voiceless, and thus, silencing equates to collusion. Women and Love – Scratching the Surface “Scratching the Surface” talks about the challenges women have to deal with, that of women and love, since African American women have to deal with oppression of several kinds.

Impact of Racism, Classism, and Sexism

The lives of African American women are decidedly influenced by the interlocking powers of racism, classism, and sexism. The readings show how these societal structures intersect in the specifics of Black women’s difficulties. Systemic racism stunts opportunities and fuels discrimination, while classism aggravates income gaps. Sexism, especially gender-based violence and discrimination, further complicates the lives of African American women.

Discussion of Black-Womanness

The readings interrogate black womanness, showing how society has criminalized, stigmatized, sexualized, objectified, and fetishized black women. The layers of oppression Black women navigate is what Lorde points out, and she demands not only the elimination of the harmful stereotypes but the redefining of the Black-womanness on their terms. The readings question the practices of society that continue to promote negative stories and demand a more complex picture of the lives of Black women (Lorde, 2012).

Treatment of Black Women Through History

The Black women were subjected to brutalities that are simply unthinkable in slavery, including physical and sexual abuse, oppression, and separation from their families. After emancipation, although freed from slavery, Black women found themselves trapped in the same circumstances; they faced discrimination and economic decline. The prejudice inherent to the legacy of slavery was embodied in discriminatory practices that restricted the opportunities accessible to Black women (Lorde, 2012). A good grasp of this history is vital for appreciating the sociohistorical environment of African American women.

Changing Perspectives

The readings have shaped my view of African American women. The sensitive portrayal of their lives has made me profoundly appreciate the complexities of the difficulties they face. Intersectionality of race, class, and gender systemic oppression has become stronger, prompting the need for a unified approach to dismantling systemic oppression. “Sister Outsider” encourages a reconsideration of old ideas about Black women, valorizing empathy and reflective commitment to the destruction of harmful ideals.


The sociohistorical analysis of African American women’s experience Audre Lorde’s “Sister Outsider” is a deep sociohistory of the social environment of African American women. The readings emphasize that racism, classism, and sexism are at an uneasy intersection and reveal Black womanness that is fraught with a host of complications. With an emphasis on the historical injustice done to Black women in the form of slavery and the period following emancipation, the work forces readers to reconsider their perceptions. In the course of traversing the social historical terrain, these pages will confront us with the task of denying the status quo and the job of bringing down the oppressive implements of society.


Lorde, A. (2012). Sister Outsider: Essays and speeches. Crossing Press.


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