The Summit Of Courage

“I am old enough to know that victory is often a thing deferred, and rarely at the summit of courage. […] What is at the summit of courage, I think, is freedom. The freedom that comes with the knowledge that no earthly thing can break you.”

Paula J. Giddings, from Womanist Theory and Research Vol. 1, Issue 2 (1996)


portrait paula_giddings

Portrait of Paula J. Giddings via Smith College

Paula J. Giddings (November 16, 1947 – present) is a writer, activist, and African American historian. Her most famous book, When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America (1984), gained national recognition and presents one of the first academic studies of intersectionality. Giddings was born and grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood in Yonkers, New York, where she regularly and systematically experienced isolation and racism from her white neighbors. These experiences would deeply shape her entree into activism and her studies into the lives of African American women. She enrolled in the historically Black college, Howard University in 1965, to gain a sense of community that she was refused in her hometown. It was at Howard that Giddings launched her literary career. Giddings’ work has been recognized as foundational in the study of African American women’s feminism, history, and activism. She has won twelve awards, and her works on the interlocking realities of sexism, racism, and classism have been featured in numerous academic journals. She is currently the Elizabeth A. Woodson 1922 Professor Emerita of Africana Studies at Smith College, subsequent to her 2017 retirement.

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