Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty

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  • 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

    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


    Bestsellers in African-American Studies