DC Activist and Author Discuss Black Women’s Mental Health in New Book

Marita Golden, co-founder of the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation, writes about the strong black woman complex in her book, “The Strong Black Woman: How a Myth Endangers the Physical and Mental Health of Black Women.”

Marita Golden, award-winning author and literary activist from DC, says the womanhood complex dates back to slavery and is “deeply embedded in African American life and culture.” (Courtesy of Marita Golden)

This is part of WTOP’s ongoing coverage of people making a difference in our community written by Stephanie Gaines-Bryant. Learn more about this coverage.

Every morning, she puts on her superwoman cape and heads out the door to save her family, her community, and even the world.

It’s a belief that many women of color have held for hundreds of years, a belief that continues to threaten their sanity.

Award-winning author and literary activist Marita Golden says the strong black woman complex dates back to slavery and is “deeply embedded in African American life and culture.”

“Because of the horrors and harshness of our conditions, we had to be strong,” says Golden.

The author said there was little time to think about their emotional needs, so black women embraced the strong black woman persona. A DC native and co-founder of the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation discusses this in her book, “The Strong Black Woman: How a Myth Endangers the Physical and Mental Health of Black Women.”

Golden says it’s very powerful and inspiring to say you’re a strong black woman, but there’s a dark side.

“If you’re talking about being strong all the time, you’re talking about sacrificing your mental well-being as well as your health,” she said.

Marita Golden, co-founder of the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation, writes about the strong black woman complex in her book, “The Strong Black Woman: How a Myth Endangers the Physical and Mental Health of Black Women.” (Courtesy of Marita Golden)

She discovered a vibrant and energetic community, on social media and everywhere, discussing mental health and African Americans when she started writing the book in 2020. She believes the pandemic pushed the discussion to the fore .

“The book questions what it means to be strong and talks about developing a new definition,” says Golden.



Golden, who grew up in the Columbia Heights area of ​​DC, has been an advocate for black women leading healthy lifestyles for decades. After losing her parents in her early twenties, one to heart disease and the other to a stroke, Golden became committed to healthy eating and exercise.

“I decided early on that I was going to outlive my parents,” she said, noting that her parents died in their early 60s. She says she’s already outlived them a decade, so far.

The acclaimed author of 19 books of fiction and non-fiction and a graduate of American University and Columbia University, has also been a literary activist in the Washington area for more than thirty years.

In 1990, Golden and bibliophile Clyde McElvene co-founded the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation to create a community of black writers. The foundation hosts summer workshops for writers, public readings, and the Legacy Award for Black Writers with the goal of creating opportunities for them locally and around the world.

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