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Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty Paperback – December 29, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (December 29, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679758690
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679758693
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Dorothy Roberts' passionate and well-documented book looks at a less-talked about side of the battle for reproductive rights: the history of the social and governmental control of African American women's bodies.

Roberts, a law professor at Rutgers University, asserts that African American women have been engaged from the start in an ongoing fight to gain control of their reproductive choice. First, in the early days of American slavery, from control by white "masters" who forced slaves to produce children to work for them, and now, from government "solutions" to African American child-bearing like the distribution of the long-term contraceptive Norplant in African American communities.

Roberts also takes the mainstream feminist movement to task for working mostly for the "negative right" of liberty, that is, the right of women to not have the government involved in their reproductive decision-making. To Roberts this debate, focused mainly on government non-interference, ignores issues especially important to African American women such as access to contraception or reproduction technologies. "Reproductive freedom is a matter of social justice," she says, stating further that it is social inequality, more than any legal interference, that severely limits African American women's ability to choose how and whether to have children. "We need a way of rethinking the meaning of liberty so that it protects all citizens equally," Roberts writes. "I propose that focusing on the connection between reproductive rights and racial equality is the place to start." --Maria Dolan --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Rutgers law professor Roberts examines "the history of social policies used by the dominant power structure to control black women's reproductive freedom."
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Robin Orlowski on August 17, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Roberts, a Rutgers law professor, examines the sociopolitical reproductive history of black women--concluding this group did and still faces disparate treatment in public policy. The combined impact of race/ethnicity, sex and ecconomic status govern black women's relation to their own bodies--and treatment from policymakers and medical personnel.
While this premise has been previously examined by other scholars, Robert's contribution differs in legal analysis of the state/women relationship specifically as it applies to black women. She also faults fellow feminists for their ignorance, silence, and apathy towards black women's unique reproductive rights.
Begining with a critique of the predominantley white pro-choice movement for preoccupation with white middle class women and the assumption reproductive access means the same thing for all groups, Roberts holds black women's fertility is only valued if a predominantley white society can find ways to benefit from it.
She also notes that illegal abortion took the highest tolls on low-income black women who were unlikely to have the financial and political clout of rich white women to convince doctors to perform theraputic abortions in secret. At the same time, abortion should not be the sole issue of a truly progressive reproductive rights movement because coercive sterilization and contraceptive programs are also painful incidents in black women's reproductive history.
The pro-choice movement should oppose reccent 'welfare reform victories' because of the destruction such punitative measures have on black communities.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 25, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book is amazing. Roberts discusses in great detatil the extreme limitations that society puts on black women's bodies. Chapters focus on the lack of control that black women experience over their bodies beginning with slavery, Margaret Sanger, abortion,through modern day horrors of Norplant, Deproprevera and media outrage over the crack babies. Roberts spends a great deal of time discussing the crimnialization of black woman's reproduction this topic was by far my favorite. I am so glad to have found a book about black women's reproduction. It is important to have this book out there, to have in print the prejudices that millions of black woman have experienced is powerful. It is important that I as a white woman realize and acknowledge that my experience as a white woman varies a great deal from black women's experiences because of racism. I believe the next step after acknowlegeing this diffrence is to work to create equality and justice for all women. I thank Dorothy Roberts for this most important book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Raquel B. on June 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
Ms. Roberts did an excellent job in detailing the racism behind reproduction and family planning as it pertains to Black women. I heard of unauthorized sterilizations, but had no idea of how wide-spread such policies went nor that they are present in today's society. It seems that women, especially Black women can't get a fair break. I'll never understand how someone else can tell someone what to do with their body. Yet these same people refuse to put the same energy and money in education and real healthcare. We have to take this knowledge and educate our brothers and sisters so that it can stop.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Washington on September 16, 2007
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Although it is bittersweet (I wish there was no need for a book on this sour subject), I absolutely love this book! Dr. Roberts' thorough analysis of reproductive health as it relates to Black women is outstanding. As a medical and public health professional, I often refer to this book as a resource for various projects and research. I recommend this book to anyone who is entering the field of reproductive health, medicine, or health care. I also met Dr. Roberts and she is truly a gem - sweet, down-to-earth, and very knowledgeable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Bear on May 21, 2014
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This book is a must. The history of black women's reproductive health is a subject that is rarely taught in schools. This book is very well researched and very accessible. It's a must read for anyone involved in reproductive justice activism, social justice activism and anyone living in America. Roberts traces how past events shape our present lives, particularly the lives of black women. Learn about the racist and classist origins of policies like eugenics, welfare and birth control. The topics are heavy but you will be better for it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By MEL13 on April 27, 2013
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I used this book as part of a large research paper I am doing for my undergraduate degree. It was more than I hoped for when it came to history on reproductive rights and current issues involving these rights. The book was also very easy to read and follow, and I was able to refer back to it easily by the different section titles. I would highly recommend this book to everyone because it truly sheds new light on the African American woman's constant struggles when it came/comes to reproductive anonymity.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Yocelin on January 22, 2014
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I had to buy this book for my Class , but regardless it was a great book it was interesting and it taught me so much that I didn't know about our current society it really opens your eyes to reality
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