Resisting Marginalization: Black Women’s Political Ambition and Agency

Resisting Marginalization: Black Women’s Political Ambition and Agency

By Pearl K. Ford Dowe, Oxford College of Emory University

The literature on understanding the political ambition of women variously explains the challenges women face in seeking elected positions. Much of it concentrates on white women and it negates the lens through which Black women view themselves and their political agency. It also ignores how Black women navigate political choices, opportunities, and obstacles. Its narrow scope therefore limits our understanding and regard for mechanisms beyond voting in which Black women engage, such as community organizing, civic engagement and seeking office (Cohen 2003; Smooth 2014). This narrow scope prompts me to ask: What is the path to Black women’s political ambition? Is ambition defined too narrowly for these women? I propose a theory of ambition on the margins to explore how and why Black women decide to run for office and engage politically. Data gathered from focus groups of young Black women support my theory by revealing the value of social networks, the continuous fight to resist stereotypes while striving to advance their communities. 


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