Barbara Smith (1946-  ) is a feminist lesbian activist, author, and elected official. She co-founded the Combahee River Collective, an organization credited with developing one of the earliest definitions of intersectionality, and co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, the first U.S. publisher for women of color.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio aside identical twin sister Beverly, Barbara grew up under the watchful eye of her grandmother after her mother died when the girls were nine. Smith credits her love of education to her grandmother, a former teacher. Smith excelled in her classes and did well on her PSAT, gaining her entrance into Mount Holyoke College. She graduated in 1969, having studied social sciences. She went on to receive an MA in literature from the University of Pittsburgh.

Smith’s foray into activism began in high school when she and her sister participated in desegregation protests. She attended rallies and speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Fannie Lou Hamer. She became a volunteer for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and helped desegregate Mount Holyoke College.  As Black Nationalism emerged, with it came the unsavory air of sexism typified by male-dominated groups. This did not sit well with Smith, so she began her journey into Black feminist politics.

She attended her first meeting of the National Black Feminist Organization in 1973 and felt “at home.”

Smith continues a life of advocacy, education, and community organizing. She served two terms on Albany, New York’s city council, and presently works with the City of Albany Mayor's Office spearheading initiatives that address economic, racial, and social inequality.


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