“Traditionally capable,” in this context, speaks both to the long tradition of black women’s strength and support of each other and their communities, and the expectation of that same strength. Part of Walker’s definition of a womanist reads: “’Mama, I’m walking to Canada and I’m taking you and a bunch of other slaves with me.’ Reply: ‘It wouldn’t be the first time,’”
Slavery is the reference Walker makes, but the move towards thinking about being traditionally capable in the struggle for civil rights is an continuation of that concept. Harris-Perry writes of this aspect of Walker’s definition of womanism in her book Sister Citizen, saying:
“Walker conveys the utterly mundane regularity of courageous acts of leadership and communal liberation among black women. Of course, black women would expect themselves and their daughters to perform extraordinary feats. Thus as many black feminist theologians adopted the self-description “womanist,” they accepted the imperative of black women’s strength.”
This tradition of capability is displayed in black women throughout the Civil Rights Movement, inspiring the womanist scholars and activists of the current moment who work to uphold that tradition in the modern landscape of racial, gender, and religious politics.