The Myth of the Black Superwoman Revisited

by Amanda Litman |

In January 1979, you might have walked past a newsstand in New York City and noticed the piercing brown eyes and free-flowing hair of Michele Wallace staring you down from the cover of Ms. “Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman … the book that will shape the 1980s” read the cover, in stark white text.

In the magazine’s excerpt from the then-about-to-be published book, Wallace explained the myth of the Black Superwoman: A woman who has “inordinate strength” and is “stronger emotionally than most men.” The Black nationalist movement, she said, viewed women as “one of the main reasons the black man had never been properly able to take hold of his situation in this country” and how “the black man has not really kept his part of the bargain they made in the sixties” during the fight for equality. The book, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman, went on to include a separate essay on “Black Macho,” a term that encapsulated the anti-intellectual impulse within Black Power rhetoric.

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About jennifer williams

Jennifer D. Williams is a writer and professor of English and Women's and Gender Studies. She has published in academic journals and online at, PopMatters, among other sites. Jennifer is currently working on a book that looks at black women's urban literature between the Depression and the civil rights era.

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