Black Reconstruction School Part II: Black Reconstruction and Reproductive Justice

May 29, 2024

This is part II of a multi-series overview of Black Reconstruction School, a 7 week program led by Forward Together’s network organizer, Adwoa Agyepong, and facilitated by Anima Adjepong.

Thirteen community organizers and culture workers convened to read and discuss W.E.B. Du Bois’ foundational text, Black Reconstruction in America. 

Read part I to learn about the way enslaved Black people took back their agency during the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War.

Reproductive Justice demands autonomy over our bodies and our futures. For too long, Black people had access to neither. What W.E.B. Du Bois interrogates in Black Reconstruction, is a new era where self-determination for all Black people suddenly became possible. Today, however, we’re in an era where access to our full autonomy is more at risk everyday. 

In the years after the Civil War, the ruling class worked tirelessly to find ways to assimilate newly freed Black people into existing social structures. Chattel slavery may have ended, but the goal was not to have Black people equal to whites. Black people might be free from slavery, but true liberation was another thing. Because, as Du Bois shows throughout Black Reconstruction, freedom of the masses is detrimental to those who aim to oppress us. Freedom means full autonomy. But what oppressors rely on is full control. They want complete power over how we live in this world; from how we form our identities to how we form families. 

So, If we want to be free, we have to fight for control, and we have to do it all the time. We must fight against bills on pregnant bodies, and any and all bans on how we do or don’t reproduce. We must fight against political and social violence against trans folk young and old, which seek to take away self-determination for all people. We must fight against imperialism, and any and all “isms” that aim to take away autonomy from the many, in lieu of domination of the few.

The first right any person has is the right to their own body. Reproductive Justice asks that we take radical ownership of our bodies. It demands we resist any attempts at domination. We cannot allow oppressors to decide how we live our lives or how we live in those bodies. Black Reconstruction showed us how enslaved Black people took back that first right. We must continue that struggle.