Gail Lewis discusses Brixton Black Women's Group



Gail Lewis talks about the Brixton Black Women's Group's focus on practical and ideological action rather than consciousness raising. With hindsight, Gail suggests that personal change could be more important than she originally allowed in the late 1970s.

Do you think that consciousness raising could be more effective in dealing with some issues than others?

Do you think that some groups of people would find consciousness raising more useful than others?



We touched on consciousness raising before and I just wanted to come back to it because there have been black feminists who have written and talked about the fact that they saw consciousness raising a luxury when they were dealing with all the things that they were dealing with as black women and as working class women and I just wondered if you would characterise them as consciousness raising or more, or something else, if it's right to use that as a phrase when talking about the discussions that you had in OWAAD and Brixton Black Women's Group.

No, I don’t think it is right to characterise them as consciousness raising and in fact, in the Brixton Group, that was one of the issues that would come up because there was one of our members in particular, but she wasn't alone, but she used to articulate a lot, Melba Wilson, who constantly said, yes we should be all these things, we should be like this campaigning, activist, propagandist, educational type organisation, we should be that, as well as once we got into the Centre we were also giving service information out, you know, advice, not exactly advice, but guidance and advocacy for local women in relation to welfare rights and stuff like that. So she would say we should be all those things, but, she said, we should also be a consciousness raising group, by which she meant we should be able to come and talk with each other just as black women, almost on the terrain of personal life, sort of reflecting a little bit inwards into the character of just daily life for us, in order to one, be a support for each other, but also to begin to do the work that CR does I guess, which is to begin to discern the patterns in the domain of the so-called private that come to be common for black women living in south London at that time. So she thought we should be a CR group and we opposed it a lot. I was one of the opposers, but I wouldn’t be now, it’s very interesting, now I think absolutely trying to understand those dimensions too of black female subjectivity in a here and now, whatever the here and now was, or would be, is really crucial.

Gail Lewis discusses Brixton Black Women's Group
15 - 18 April 2011
Sound recording
Sisterhood and After: The Women's Liberation Oral History Project
© British Library
Held by
British Library

Full catalogue details

Related articles


Article by:
Sisterhood and After Research Team

Many women in the early days of the Women’s Liberation Movement felt bewildered about what it meant to be a woman, what they were doing with their lives and why. Discover how consciousness-raising groups helped participants to discuss their feelings, needs and desires.

Related collection items

Related people