Publication Date

April 2018


H. Shellae Versey


African American Studies


English (United States)


My thesis explores the following questions: What were the networks Black women created within southern Black communities to facilitate abortion access before Roe v. Wade (1973)? How does the work and beliefs of Black women activists organizing in the South after abortion was legalized nationally reflect and build off of the work of Black southern women providers who operated before Roe v. Wade ? Specifically, this thesis attempts to shift the North-centric historical documentation of reproductive rights activism. Beyond the temporal demarcation of pre and post Roe v. Wade my analysis operates on two levels. On a micro level this work brings forth the composition of some of these historical networks and deconstructs the formative organizing years of two Black reproductive freedom activists: Women health care pioneer Byllye Avery and women and human rights activist Loretta Ross. I had the great honor of interviewing both activists who were pivotal contributors to reproductive freedom activism and discourse post-1973. On a macro level I argue that Byllye Avery and Loretta Ross?s activism within anti-violence and reproductive rights during the 1970s and 1980s is a continuation of their predecessors? work through building upon the Black Radical Tradition.



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