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‘Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith’ by Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks with Barbara Smith

‘Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith’ by Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks with Barbara Smith

Author: John Erickson

September 23, 2015

In a time where the battle for Civil Rights mimics the riots and deaths of the 1950s and and beyond, editors Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks gathered essays, lectures, and speeches written by Barbara Smith. They created a collection of stories that stress not only the importance of a movement but also its role and influence in larger society and culture as a whole.

Smith’s grassroots activism is key to the success of many movements such as feminism, lesbian and gay liberation, anti-racism, black feminism, and Civil rights; but all too often, her legacy is one that is skirted over or lacks the full emphasis she deserves. Through forging a milieu where issues such a gender, race, class, and sexuality are all merged and interwoven into each other to help build effective collaborations, Smith, through the dedicated work of editors Jones and Eubanks, signifies the early roots of intersectionality that many of today’s movements and activists champion.

One of the most vital aspects of this collection is the attention to detail regarding Smith’s writing and activism that honors the “lives of ordinary Black women.” Often times overlooked for their contribution to movements, the “interviews, writings, and historical documents” present throughout many of the chapters is vital to an accurate portrayal of the important role women, from all walks of life, had in the success of many movements that have helped shape counter cultural movements and mainstream society today.

Through Smith’s social justice work, activists and scholars have been able to learn from her example and create movements and work within existing structural frameworks or create ones of their own that better match their movement’s mission and/or goals. While the book is centered on Smith’s life as an organizer, publisher, scholar, writer, and public service; the main crux of the collection is centered on how new and emerging scholars and activists can utilize Smith’s body of work and movement experience on their own terms.

While Ain’t Gonna let Nobody Turn Me Around has similar qualities to the Roots song that it is titled after, its end pages come too fast.Similar to Smith’s work, readers who finish the book long for a few extra pages and advice from a keen advisor who not only shaped history for the better but also created a world where like minded individuals can feel part of something larger while their “Marchin’ up to freedom land.”


Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around
By Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks, editors with Barbara Smith
SUNY Press
Hardcover, 9781438451152, 354 pp.
November 2015

John Erickson photo

About: John Erickson

John Erickson is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University. He holds a MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in Women’s Literature and Women’s Studies. The LGBTQ and women’s rights movements, masculinity studies, gender theory, and the utilization of technology in forming communities and creating new teaching methodologies influence his research interests. His work is inspired by the intersectionality of feminism, queer identity, LGBTQ history, and religious and sexual cultural rhetoric. He is a permanent contributor to blog Feminism and Religion and the Co-Chair of the Queer Studies in Religion section of the American Academy of Religion's Western Region, the only regional section of the American Academy of Religion that is dedicated to the exploration of queer studies in religion and other relevant fields in the nation. When he is not working on his dissertation, he can be found at West Hollywood City Hall where he works on policies and special events relating to women, gender, sexuality, and human rights issues that are sponsored or co-sponsored by the City of West Hollywood. He is the author of the blog From Wisconsin, with Love and can be followed on Twitter @JErickson85

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