Race Talks: The Black Radical Tradition: Past, Present, and Futures

In Conversation with Candace Borders, Yale University & K. Bailey Thomas, Dartmouth University

University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies Presents ” Race Talks: The Black Radical Tradition: Past, Present, and Futures “


This paper tells the story of the 1969 St. Louis rent strike, a coordinated effort by tenants across public housing projects to protest both unsafe living conditions and the St. Louis Housing Authority’s 1968 rent increases. It focuses on the leader of the rent strike, public housing tenant Jean King, to tell an alternative story centering Black women’s activism. Borders argues that the significance of King’s organizing does not lie solely in her ability to redirect the power of the state—King would go on to influence public housing policies at the federal level. Rather, it is her refusal of the category of what Grace Hong terms the “propertied citizen-subject of the US nation-state” and the accompanying linear developmental path to citizenship through property—one that is historically fraught and precarious for Black bodies—that is important. Borders reads King’s ultimate decision to continue living in public housing, even when she had the opportunity to move out and “move up,” as an intentional act of refusal. The paper theorizes around what becomes possible when we think with a lens of refusal.

Candace is a 5th year PhD Candidate in American Studies and African American Studies at Yale University. She received her BA in American Culture Studies at Washington University in St. Louis in 2017. Her work revolves around the intersections of race, gender, and public housing in St. Louis, Missouri. Her dissertation is an interdisciplinary history of Black women’s housing activism between 1947-1980 in St. Louis, Missouri grounded in Black women’s everyday experiences of living in and resisting against the state logics of public housing. As an arts educator and curator, she has worked at the Yale University Art Gallery and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in various roles. Currently, Candace is an ArtTable Curatorial Fellow at CAM St. Louis and in her spare time she practices and teaches yoga.

K. Bailey Thomas, Dartmouth University

Black Feminism is Not Feminism in Blackface’: In Defense of the Radicality of Black Feminist Theory

A reoccurring debate among scholars and activists alike is whether feminism is an appropriate means for Black women, femmes, non-binary, and gender-expansive people to achieve liberation from all forms of oppression, particularly those embedded within cis-heteropatriarchy. In this talk Bailey Thomas presents an argument for the efficacy and radicality of Black feminist theory as a framework within Black critical theory/ the Black radical tradition. Specifically, they argue against the idea of feminism as a means of liberation only for white women as a dangerous and a-historic misconception. Given that critical theory, broadly construed, focuses on means and methods of liberation, Bailey Thomas understands Black critical theory to focus primarily on the liberation of those of African descent and/or Black people. Focusing on two essays by Audre Lore and bell hooks, they demonstrate that Black feminism and Black feminist theory are not only a legitimate articulation of feminism, but are crucial components of Black critical theory/the Black radical tradition and its intellectual genealogy.

Bailey Thomas is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Philosophy while on research leave from the University of Louisville where they are an Assistant Professor of Philosophy. Much of their research focuses on bridging the gaps between epistemic, ethical, and political spheres through an argument for the integration of ethical and political frameworks into social epistemology. Some of their other long-term projects include examining the intellectual components of the Radical Black Tradition and Black American feminism. They are also the founder and director of the Roundtable for Black Feminist and Womanist Theory.

The ‘Race Talks’ seminar series aims to foster critical conversation about race, racialization, and processes of race-making. The seminar series will provide a forum for students from across the University who are interested in integrating critical race approaches and feminist scholarship in their work. It may be of particular interest to students in the Centre for Gender Studies and those working with the Race Research Cluster in the Department of Sociology.

Date and time: Thu, 27 Apr 2023 14:30 – 15:30 BST

Register for this online Event here

At each seminar, an invited speaker will give a short talk about the seminar topic and then invite participants to share their reflections. A number of the seminars will also have a curated reading list, which participants will be encouraged to read beforehand and prepare questions and thoughts to share with the rest of the group.

Organised by Ola Osman, PhD Candidate, University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies (oo273@cam.ac.uk) and Mansi Hitesh, PhD Candidate, Emory University (mansi.hitesh@emory.edu).