CHAPTER 1 Introduction Whether Black women clean the offices of the C-suite or work late burning the midnight oil in one, there is a dual disdain and devaluation of their labor contradicted only by its necessity. We need Black women to work. Historically, and now, the U.S. economy is dependent on Black women’s labor to grow and sustain its wealth and power. During the enslavement of Black people, the expansion of Black women’s bellies in pregnancy gave birth to the fledgling U.S. economy, making possible the inequitable wealth we enjoy today. An incalculable number of African people set to be enslaved in the New World lost their lives on the journey. Whether by disease or choice, they made the only decision they had at the time. They jumped. Adults, children, and babies cast themselves into the sea to avoid the tragedy they could only imagine would come. The loss of life across the Middle Passage necessitated Black babies to be born and raised to grow the labor force for plantation work in America on stolen lands. Sex- ual trauma, birthing labor, and physical work were Black women’s work in the early days as this nation gave birth to itself. It laid the problematic foundation for the conceptualization of Black women’s work today. Black women continue to drive the growth of this nation, politically and economically. They have the highest labor force participation rates for women, higher than any other racial/ethnic group in the United States (Hunter-Gadsden, 2018). Black women are also more likely to be the breadwinners for their families than women of other racial groups (Institute for Women’s Policy Research—IWPR, 2016). We work because our families need us to. We, Black women, work because society requires us to. Black women work because the material conditions of our lives, generally, save for a few who are independently wealthy, are such that long hours doing social-emotionally demanding, physically draining, and
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