The American imperial project exploits race, class, gender, and sexual differences in the name of the state. But in what ways has the transformative nature of American imperialism intervened in the public and private lives of Black women? This essay asks, What impact has the American imperial project had on Black women’s self-making throughout the twentieth century? The author draws on the autobiographical works of Black enslaved, postbellum, queer, and transgender contemporaries to show how Black women have resisted the fungibility of their bodies through processes of self-formation and self-reclamation. The author also relies on the theoretical works of critical race, queer, and feminist scholars to frame how that resistance—whether in the form of sexual freedom, reproductive choice, or independence from traditional systems of labor—represents a critical site of possibility for understanding Black women’s social and political life worlds today.

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