From Maria Stewart's first-of-its-kind public address in Boston in 1832 and Sojourner Truth's rousing "Ain't I a Woman?" speech at the Woman's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio in 1851, to contemporary critical formulations such as Kimberlé Crenshaw's concept of "intersectionality" and Tricia Rose's work on structural racism, the thoughts, theories, and experiences of Black women have been at the center of feminist activism and inquiry for the past two centuries. The year 2017 marked the fortieth anniversary of The Combahee River Collective's Black feminist manifesto and Barbara Smith's groundbreaking treatise "Toward a Black Feminist Criticism," as well as the thirtieth anniversary of Hortense Spillers's equally influential essay "Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: An American Grammar Book." In commemoration of these contributions and the continuing centrality of Black feminist analytics, the Pembroke Center established the Black Feminist Theory Project in 2016.
Envisioned as a site of intellectual collaboration across disciplines, The Black Feminist Theory Project is anchored by rotating Distinguished Professorships/Affiliated Scholars in Residence at the Pembroke Center. Other features include annual lectures and archives contributed by notable theorists to the Pembroke Center's Feminist Theory Archive in the name of the Black Feminist Theory Project. The aim of the project is to enhance the visibility and accessibility of Black feminist discourse on campus as a resource for faculty, students, and the surrounding community, while calling attention to ongoing activism and interventions at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and public policy.