Activist, poet and essayist Minnie Bruce Pratt passed away on July 19th, 2023. She was 76.
Minnie was a radical southern femme, feminist poet, essayist, educator, and activist. She was a founding member of the Combahee River Collective, a black feminist organization that was one of the first to articulate a radical analysis of the intersections of race, class, and gender oppression. Pratt’s own work was deeply informed by her experiences as a white, working-class, lesbian woman. Her poems and essays explored themes of racism, sexism, homophobia, and violence.
Pratt was born in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1948. She grew up in a working-class family and attended segregated schools. After graduating from high school, Pratt attended Wellesley College, where she studied English and creative writing. After graduating from Wellesley, Pratt moved to New York City, where she began her career as a poet and essayist.
In 1974, Pratt co-founded the Combahee River Collective. The Collective’s statement of purpose, written by Pratt, is one of the most important documents in the history of black feminism. The statement articulates the Collective’s belief that “the major systems of oppression are interlocking, and that women of color experience oppression in ways that are both similar to and different from those of white women.”
In 1991, The New York Times named Crime Against Nature a Notable Book of the Year, and the American Library Association honored the volume with its Gay and Lesbian Book Award for Literature. The works focused on her experience as a lesbian raising sons. The book was reprinted and distributed in 2016 as the first title from Sapphic Classics, a co-edition between Sinister Wisdom Magazine and A Midsummer Night’s Press to reprint seminal works of lesbian poetry.
Pratt published six books of poetry, including “The Sound of One Fork Against the Other” (1981), “S/He” (1985), and “Ordinary Life” (1995). She also wrote several books of essays, including “Identity Lessons” (1998) and “Situating Autobiography” (2003). Pratt’s work has been widely anthologized and translated into several languages.
Pratt was a professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park, for over 30 years. She was also a founding member of the Women’s Studies program at the University of Maryland. She spent the last years of her academic career as professor of women’s and gender studies as well as writing and rhetoric at Syracuse University. She retired in 2015.
Pratt was a tireless advocate for social justice and a powerful voice for the oppressed. Her work will continue to inspire readers for generations to come.
In addition to her writing, Pratt was also an active activist. She participated in protests against racism, sexism, homophobia, and violence. She also worked to raise awareness about the intersections of oppression. Pratt was a founding member of the Southern Organizing Committee for Human Needs and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She was also a member of the board of directors of the National Organization for Women and the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays.
Pratt was a brilliant writer, thinker, and activist. She was a powerful voice for the oppressed and a tireless advocate for social justice. Her work will continue to inspire readers and activists for generations to come.
Here are some additional details about Pratt’s life and work:
- Pratt was a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, the Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Lannan Foundation Literary Award.
- She was a member of the editorial boards of several journals, including “Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society” and “American Quarterly.”
- Pratt’s work has been featured in several documentaries, including “The Combahee River Collective: A History in Documents” and “For the Record: The Life of Minnie Bruce Pratt.”
- Pratt was awarded the National Women’s History Association’s Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights in 2014.
Pratt is survived by her sons Ben and Ransom Weaver. She was proceeded in death by her longtime partner and later spouse, activist and the author of ‘Stone Butch Blues,’ Leslie Feinberg in 2014.
Pratt’s death is a loss to the world of literature and activism. She was a brilliant writer and thinker who used her work to challenge injustice and oppression. Her legacy will continue to inspire others for years to come.
Pratt’s sons have suggested anyone wishing to make memorial donations in her name make them to the to the Friends of Dorothy House in Syracuse, which provides care and support to people living with HIV or AIDS.
May she forever rest in power.