Who Will Revere The Black Woman?

The Jazz diva's 1966 essay for Negro Digest rings true in the hearts of many Black women today

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big and loud,” whose behind is “too big and broad,” whose feet are “too big and flat,” whose face is “too black and shiny,” and whose suffering and patience is too long and enduring to be believed.

Who’re just too damned much for everybody.

We are the women whose bars and recreation halls are invaded by flagrantly disrespectful, bigoted, simpering, amoral, emotionally unstable, outcast, maladjusted, nymphomaniacal, condescending white women . . . in desperate and untiring search of the “frothing-at-the-mouth-for-a white-woman, strong backed, sixty-minute hot black.” Our men.

We are the women who, upon protesting this invasion of our privacy and sanctity and sanity, are called “jealous,” and “evil,” and “small-minded,” and “prejudiced.” We are the women whose husbands and fathers and brothers and sons have been plagiarized, imitated, denied, and robbed of the fruits of their genius, and who consequently we see emasculated, jailed, lynched, driven mad, deprived, enraged, and made suicidal. We are the women whom nobody, seemingly, cares about, who are made to feel inadequate, stupid and backward, and who inevitably have the most colossal inferiority complexes to be found.

And who is spreading the propaganda that “the only free people in this country are the white man and the Black woman?” If this be freedom, then Heaven is Hell.

Who will revere the Black woman? Who will keep our neighborhoods safe for Black innocent womanhood? Black womanhood is outraged and humiliated. Black womanhood cries for dignity and restitution and salvation. Black womanhood wants and needs protection, and keeping, and holding. Who will assuage her indignation? Who will keep her precious and pure? Who will glorify and proclaim her beautiful image? To whom will she cry rape?

This essay appeared in the September 1966 issue of Negro Digest, John H. Johnson's first magazine. Negro Digest was founded in 1942 and renamed Black World in 1970. The magazine remained in print until 1976.