The Concept of Womanism in African American Writings

The African American poets and mostly the women has been held hostage by the white poets since the era of slavery. This has motivated some prominent African American poets to set a struggle intended to attain freedom of the African American poetries. The impact of the struggle has been lightly felt however the writers such as Alice Walker: The Color Purple, Gwendolyn Brooks: A Street found in Bronzeville, and Audre Lorde: A Woman Speaks, persistently addressed the issues concerning the oppression of black individuals based on the color of their skin and gender disparities as well.

Alice Walker is one of the prominent black woman novelists who are known of addressing the matter of womanist in American poetry. According to Walker, womanist is another version of feminism and it automatically result to pro-humankind. The theology aimed at oppressing the black novelists on bases of race and class. Alice Walker views womanism as a theory savage of the African American race since the theory acknowledges the black culture, experiences of black woman and as well the spiritual life.

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Gwendolyn Brooks is the other poet who has addressed the issue of oppression of the black race. She was born in Topeka in 1917. She wrote many poems that seemed to be for the blacks since she felt that the blacks were being oppressed by the whites. Apparently, the issue of womanism has been a great obstacle against the African Americans andvarious great poets has addressed it using their poetic techniques. Metaphor and imagery are some of the techniques that they have employed to speak to the readers of their poems.

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The Color Purple by Alice walker is a perfect illustrator of womanism in American poetry. Alice Walker in her work redefines feminism as another form of feminism. The theory of feminism/womanism aims at empowering the female gender in the society. The movement was propelled by the discrimination of the black woman and it had a goal to abolish the discrimination on the bases of skin color, sex, and color. Since the establishment of the womanism movement, various authors came up with various definitions. Notably, Alice’s definition seem to be more significant over other the definitions. She terms feminism as “stronger in colour” and that it almost resembles the “black Feminism”.

According to Alice Walker, feminism should aim at the welfare of all African Americans society regardless to their sex or sex. Seemingly, the womanism theology focuses on enlightening the women and give them confidence in uplifting the Christianity among the African Americans. The womanism theology challenges the perception of oppressing the black people in their struggle for survival.

Alice Walker has basically employed an outstanding prose style. She presents her work as with neutrality without having favoring one side. She does not solely advocate for womanism neither does she call for patriarchy. Instead, she believes in uplifting the entire humanity to a responsible person without sex or race discrimination. She also passes her message on womanism by employing story telling technique making her poems interesting to read. For instance, in the poem The Color Purple she decorates the poem by the use of storytelling technique to make her work convincing. Observably, she also employs the use of African American Vernacular in the poem The Color Purple. Alice uses “the leap completely” which has greatly influenced the past negative associations. In the poem she uses the vernacular to address the issues regarding the African American. In the poem The Color Purple, Alice Walker uses metaphor and imagery to pass her message. She uses the color purple to reflect the miracles of human possibilities (Arıkan 45). The color purple represents the good thing that God created for the well-being of all humankind. She also uses pants to symbolize the free woman who has been freed from oppression. This technique has in deed contributed in addressing the issues regarding womanism liberation of the African American.

Audre Lorde is yet another prominent poet who can never be overlooked while addressing the issues regarding the womanism. In her poetry, she randomly uses words such black, lesbian, warrior, and mother as part of her poetry techniques. She as well uses imagery and metaphor as part of her poetry techniques to address the issue of womanism. Lorde was also influenced by the second blow of the feminist movement. “It is a particular or specific academic arrogance to assume and ignore any discussion of feminist’s theories without examining and evaluating our many differences,” those were remarks of Audre Lorde on her perception concerning the theory of womanism. In one of her famous poems, The Master’s Tools, she addresses the differences that prevail amongst the poets in addressing the matter of woman. According to my observation, Lorde tried to strengthen the feminist movement without discriminating anyone in the movement. Lorde was advocating for a community of women who support each other.

Undeniably, Gwendolyn Brooks is indeed one of the female African American authors whose poems cannot be overlooked while addressing the issue of womanism. In her poem, “A Street in Bronzeville,” she tries to depict the creativity, activism and scholarship that are flowering out of African American in the Southern Side of the state of Chicago, Particularly Bronzeville. Additionally, she describes some of the oppression and social injustices faced by the urban blacks in the south side of Chicago. She wrote this collection during the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movements of 1960s (Smith 97). The poverty and segregation faced by the immigrants in Bronzeville gave her the inspiration, experience and training to work as a poet.

Seemingly, these poems reveal an ugly world full of violence and discriminations through appliance of a number of poetic styles. In this collection, the poems have been written in different forms but all significantly have the same idea, womanism. These poems address the issue of womanism through the struggles, small triumphs and unheroic survival of many stories of poetic characters. Brooks uses various poetic forms in order to bring characters to life and to express the theme in the most ideal way (Smith 97). Additionally, she synthesizes her influences to match her own voice by translating from ballads to urban blue poems connecting through Chaucerian stanzas.

Notably, she deploys the traditional poetic techniques such as the sonnet, heroic couplet and rhyme royal so as to mirror and embrace the uncertainties of characters or personas. These characters struggle to protect themselves from both internal and external chaos faced in the country. She uses musical illusions to depict the representative quality of experiences of the characters particularly those in search of inclusivity and love. “Ballad of the Pearl May Lee” is one of the poems of Brook that uses a distinct tone and mood to bring out the victimization of the poor, black woman. It represents the complex and sophisticated mood of the ballad through the tone (Ogunyemi 57). The tone and mood are concepts often utilized interchangeably by different poets and authors to express different feeling and themes by different poets. She uses the tone to uphold the mood of the poem and show the victimization of the black poet woman from Chicago. The tone is also typically upheld through the several shifts in the episodes in the poem, repetitions in composing stanzas particularly at the terminal parts of the poem, diction and change of speaker’s stance.

In a nutshell, the theme of womanism is indeed depicted by various African American poets such as Brook, Lorde and Alice Walker in an ideal way that cannot be overlooked. They have evoked their poetry techniques in addressing these issues. They have commonly utilized some of poetic techniques such as metaphor and imagery while speaking to the reader. Evidently, they have addressed the issue of womanism with a goal of welfare to all humankind. However, Lorde finds it importance to address the differences among the poets on womanism issue.

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The Concept of Womanism in African American Writings. (2021, Sep 21). Retrieved from

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