Racial Capitalism and Black Women’s Struggle for Reproductive Justice

Crystal Eddins, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Reproductive justice responds to the contemporary connections between race, class, and gender, which are linked to histories of colonialism and the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the ways Black women’s reproduction has been exploited for capitalist gain. This paper argues that we cannot separate the struggle for reproductive justice from broader critiques of racial capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism, and traces the ongoing interrelationship between exploitative structural forces and Black women’s collective actions in defense of their reproductive autonomy – including decisions to have children or not have children – beginning with the era of enslavement, to the post-emancipation era, to the current day. To illuminate the long history of the struggle for reproductive justice, the chapter utilizes a Black feminist epistemology, drawing on experiences and insights of Black women activists and organizations – primarily those based in the United States but also including African diasporic communities in the Caribbean and South America – and the ways they offered materialist analyses of their conditions and organized to exert control of their lives, their reproduction, and the lives of their children.

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 Presented in Session 41. The Intersection of Health and Race in the United States