40 pages 1 hour read

Brittney Cooper

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2018

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Summary and Study Guide


Gender and Africana Women’s studies professor Dr. Brittney Cooper published the essay collection Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower in 2018. In 12 essays, Cooper relies on personal experience, readings of figures from popular culture and politics, and Black feminist theory to make the case that Black women should reject the assumption that being angry is wrong. Cooper instead calls for Black women to use anger as a political and critical tool in their quest for identity and social justice.

Content Warning: This book includes depictions of and references to racialized violence, violence against women and girls, debilitating use of alcohol, and sexual assault. It also includes pejorative terms for Black people and women, as well as profanity. These terms are preserved in quotes and titles only.

This guide is based on the 2018 St. Martin’s Press Kindle edition.


Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower comprises 12 essays.

In Chapter 1, “The Problem with Sass,” Cooper identifies the figure of the “Sassy Black Woman” as a sanitized version of the “Angry Black Woman.” Both figures are rooted in systemic oppression and sexism. Black women must learn to see their anger as a legitimate response to oppression and to channel an “eloquent rage,” a political force that illuminates and inspires.

In Chapter 2, “Capital B, Capital F,” Cooper describes college experiences that helped her see the value of Black feminism. She returns here to the idea of rage, acknowledging that while it can be self-defeating if not intentionally used, when deliberate and focused, it can be powerful.

In Chapter 3, “Strong Female Leads,” Cooper examines and critiques the representation of Black women in popular culture and the media. She also describes her evolving relationship with white femininity in the context of the white-centered novels she read as a girl and the friendships with white girls that she had. While racism marred those friendships, she expresses her admiration for strong white women such as Hillary Clinton. She also expresses her willingness to join with white feminists in furthering their mutual cause, so long as they do not relegate Black feminists to secondary roles.

In Chapter 4, “The Smartest Man I Never Knew,” Cooper explores the consequences of toxic masculinity in her life, in Black communities, and globally. Describing the abuse her family suffered from her father, she extends the notion of toxic masculinity, with its dynamic of domination and devaluation, to the conduct of the United States abroad.

In Chapter 5, “Bag Lady,” Cooper describes the emotional baggage Black women carry and the unfair expectation that Black women should always be resilient. This baggage has systemic causes, so individual self-help is an inadequate response to it.

In Chapter 6, “Grown Woman Theology,” Cooper discusses Black women’s sexuality in the context of faith and the traditional expectation that respectable Black women would remain “pure” until marriage. She argues that Black women need to reframe their ideas about sex in order to have more fulfilling sexual lives.

In Chapter 7, “Orchestrated Fury,” Cooper analyzes the double standards in the notion of Black respectability and its racist dimensions. She also describes the strategies Black women rely on to manage their anger and the costs of doing so.

In Chapter 8, “White-Girl Tears,” Cooper argues that the Women’s March of 2016, when white women bemoaned the election of Donald Trump, allowed white women to avoid contemplating the consequences of their own actions. Thus, she goes on to discuss the limitations of white feminism and the need for white women and Black men, mired in toxic masculinity shaped by the myth of white female fragility, to be better allies to Black women.

In Chapter 9, “Never Scared,” Cooper compares and contrasts responses to white fear and Black fear. In the United States, white fear is treated with respect, and Black fear is treated as illegitimate. Rather than retreat into Black respectability as the antidote to the dangers of white fear, Black people must embrace disruption, most exemplified in crunk music and dance.

In Chapter 10, “Love in a Hopeless Place,” Cooper considers some of the structural causes that leave many Black women who want Black male partners without them. She also shares personal stories about struggling to find companionship and love and running into systemic roadblocks in that quest.

In Chapter 11, “Favor Ain’t Fair,” Cooper critiques the notion that Black success is only the result of individual choices. She also rejects anti-intellectualism within Black communities, seeing it as more of a hindrance to the pursuit of racial equality than a help.

In Chapter 12, “Joy,” while Cooper once again emphasizes the value and power of “eloquent rage,” she also reminds the reader of the transformative capacity of joy and suggests harnessing both when fighting for justice and equality. Through examination of popular discourse, storytelling, and discussion of the myriad ways intersectionality shows up in Black women’s life, Cooper makes the case that Black women’s rage is a source of power.