The Alarming Rate of Black Femicide in the U.S.

The Alarming Rate of Black Femicide in the U.S.

Coercive Control By May 04, 2024

In the United States, Black women are six times more likely to be murdered than their white counterparts, as revealed by a comprehensive analysis of homicide rates conducted by researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. The disturbing findings shed light on the longstanding issue of racial inequality and underscore the urgent need to take action against black femicide.

The study marks the first attempt to analyze homicide trends spanning two decades among women aged 25 to 44—the ages at which women are most vulnerable to homicide.1 It not only confirms the disproportionate impact of homicide on Black women but also highlights the alarming trend of Black women being more likely than white women to be killed by firearms.

Lead author Bernadine Waller, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, emphasizes the devastating reality uncovered by the study:

“To uncover the fact that Black women are murdered at rates as high as 20 to 1 is heart-breaking and underscores the urgent need to make substantive structural shifts.”

The study findings reveal stark disparities in homicide rates among Black women across different states. In Wisconsin, for instance, the disparity reached a staggering 20 times in 2019-2020, highlighting the urgency of addressing this issue at both the national and state levels.

U.S. Homicide Rates Per 100,000 Population for Women (1999 – 2020)

FBI data reveals a disturbing trend: Black women are far more likely to be murdered by someone they know. Approximately one-third of Black femicides are committed by intimate partners or family members, while another 16% involve friends or acquaintances.2

YearBlack WomenWhite Women

Structural Racism A Key Factor in Black Femicide

Structural racism emerges as a key factor driving these disparities, with historical legacies of slavery and lynching contributing to concentrated disadvantage in certain parts of the country. These areas, characterized by high proportions of people of low socioeconomic status, are also where Black Lives Matter protests have been particularly tense.

Victoria A. Joseph, MPH, a data analyst at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and a co-author of the study, emphasizes the importance of addressing structural racism in efforts to reduce disproportionate homicide deaths among Black women:

“Efforts aimed at reducing disproportionate homicide deaths among Black women can be implemented through addressing the role of structural racism.”

Gun deaths among Black and white women in the U.S. have increased over time, with Black women disproportionately affected. In 2020, Black women were three times more likely in the Northeast and over six times more likely in the Midwest to be killed by a firearm compared to their white counterparts.

The study’s senior author, Katherine Keyes, PhD, stresses the need for sustained investment and vision to support underserved communities and reverse racial injustices. “These trends reflect systems that have long disserviced communities of color,” says Dr. Keyes, underscoring the urgent need for action to address the root causes of racial inequality in homicide rates.

“Homicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States for women under the age of 44, and nearly half are killed by a current or former male intimate partner.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic violence has become a pandemic within a pandemic, with many victims facing the added pressures of increased economic insecurity, increased time in isolation with their abusers, and limited contact with their support networks.”

Advocacy group like The Black Femicide Prevention Coalition are striving to spread awareness about the epidemic.3


On May 22, 1962, Malcolm X addressed the intersectional injustices Black women face in America. He emphasized the vulnerability and marginalization Black women face, from oppression in broader society and within their own communities. He explained:4

“The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.”

A staggering 62 years later, the urgency of his message remains. The alarming rate of Black femicide in the United States today tragically echoes the horrific reality Malcolm laid bare that spring day.

The study’s findings provide a sobering reminder of the urgent need to address racial disparities in homicide rates. Only through concerted efforts to tackle structural racism and invest in underserved communities can we hope to reverse the alarming trend of disproportionate femicides among Black women in the United States.


  1. Bernadine Y. Waller, Victoria A. Joseph, and Katherine M. Keyes (2024, February 8). Racial inequities in homicide rates and homicide methods among Black and White women aged 25–44 years in the USA, 1999–2020: A Cross-Sectional Time Series Study. The Lancet. Retrieved on May 3, 2024. ↩︎
  2. Lois Beckett and Abené Clayton (2022, June 25). ‘An Unspoken Epidemic’: Homicide Rate Increase for Black Women Rivals that of Black Men. The Guardian. Retrieved on May 4, 2024. ↩︎
  3. The Black Femicide Prevention Coalition. Facebook. ↩︎
  4. Stereo Williams (2017, May 5). The Most Disrespected Person in America Is Still the Black Woman. The Daily Beast. Retrieved on May 4, 2024. ↩︎

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