Lorraine Bethel

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Lorraine Bethel is an African-American lesbian feminist poet and author. She is a graduate of Yale University. Bethel has taught and lectured on black women's literature and black female culture at various institutions, she currently works as a freelance journalist in New York City. She participated in the Combahee River Collective, an organization that was part of the Women's Liberation Movement in the 1960s and 1970s; the Combahee River Collective was a black feminist group founded in Boston in 1974. It fought against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression.

In an issue of off our backs, a feminist news journal, a participant recounts her experience in the 3rd World Lesbian Writers Conference on February 24, 1979 at New York City's Women's Center, in which Lorraine Bethel and Barbara Smith moderated one of the five workshops available. In their workshop, called "Third World Feminist Criticism", Bethel and Smith discussed various topics such as the definition of "criticism", criticism as a "creative" art, white feminism versus black feminism, intersectional feminism, and the unification of black lesbians.

Later that year, in November 1979, Lorraine Bethel and Barbara Smith guest-edited "The Black Women's Issue" of Conditions: Five, a literary magazine primarily for black lesbian women. In the introduction, it is stated that the issue "disproves the 'non-existence' of Black feminist and Black lesbian writers and challenges forever our invisibility, particularly in the feminist press." (Conditions: Five). Bethel wrote the poem, "What Chou Mean We, White Girl? Or, The Cullud Lesbian Feminist Declaration of Independence", which was published in this issue. Deborah E. McDowell states in a review that this poem "confronts head-on the hostility that black feminists often feel for their white counterparts" (McDowell).


  • "What Chou Mean 'We', White Girl? Or, the Culled Lesbian Feminist Declaration of Independence (Dedicated to the Proposition that All Women Are Not Equal, i.e., Identical/ly Oppressed)", poem published in Bethel & Smith (eds, 1979), pp. 86–92.
  • "'This infinity of conscious pain': Zora Neale Hurston and the Black Female Literary Tradition". In Hull, Gloria T., Smith, Barbara and Scott, Patricia Bell (eds.), But Some of Us Are Brave: All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men: Black Women's Studies. Feminist Press, 1986. ISBN 0-912670-95-9


  • Bethel, Lorraine & Barbara Smith (eds.) Conditions (magazine) :Five 2, no. 2: The Black Women's Issue (Autumn 1979)
  • ISIS. "Herstory in the Making." Off Our Backs Apr 30 1979: 20. ProQuest. Web. 22 May 2016 .
  • McDowell, Deborah E. Black American Literature Forum 16.2 (1982): 77-79. Web.
  • Philyaw, Deesha. "Conditions: Five." Bitch Media. N.p., 5 May 2009. Web. 21 May 2016. [1].