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Black Women and da ’Rona
Community, Consciousness, and Ethics of Care
Edited by Julia S. Jordan-Zachery and Shamara Wyllie Alhassan
University of Arizona Press, 2023
Rooted in the ways Black women understand their lives, this collection archives practices of healing, mothering, and advocacy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recognizing that Black women have been living in pandemics as far back as colonialism and enslavement, this volume acknowledges that records of the past—from the 1918 flu pandemic to the onset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic—often erase the existence and experiences of Black women as a whole. Writing against this archival erasure, this collection consciously recenters the real-time experiences and perspectives of care, policy concerns, grief, and joy of Black women throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nineteen contributors from interdisciplinary fields and diverse backgrounds explore Black feminine community, consciousness, ethics of care, spirituality, and social critique. They situate Black women’s multidimensional experiences with COVID-19 and other violences that affect their lives. The stories they tell are connected and interwoven, bound together by anti-Black gendered COVID necropolitics and commitments to creating new spaces for breathing, healing, and wellness.

Ultimately, this time-warping analysis shows how Black women imagine a more just society, rapidly adapt to changing experiences, and innovate ethics of care even in the midst of physical distancing, which can be instructive for thinking of new ways of living both during and beyond the era of COVID-19.

Shamara Wyllie Alhassan
Sharnnia Artis
Keisha L. Bentley-Edwards
Candace S. Brown
Jenny Douglas
Kaja Dunn
Onisha Etkins
Rhonda M. Gonzales
Endia Hayes
Ashley E. Hollingshead
Kendra Jason
Julia S. Jordan-Zachery
Stacie LeSure
Janaka B. Lewis
Michelle Meggs
Nitya Mehrotra
Sherine Andreine Powerful
Marjorie Shavers
Breauna Marie Spencer
Tehia Starker Glass
Amber Walker

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Black Women and Music
More Than the Blues
Edited by Eileen M. Hayes and Linda F. Williams
University of Illinois Press, 2006
This collection is the first interdisciplinary volume to examine black women’s negotiation of race and gender in African American music. Contributors address black women’s activity in musical arenas that pre- and postdate the emergence of the vaudeville blues singers of the 1920s. Throughout, the authors illustrate black women’s advocacy of themselves as blacks and as women in music. Feminist? Black feminist? The editors take care to stress that each term warrants interrogation: “Black women can and have forged, often, but not always––and not everywhere the same across time––identities that are supple enough to accommodate a sense of female empowerment through ‘musicking’ in tandem with their sensitivities to black racial allegiances.”  

Individual essays concern the experiences of black women in classical music and in contemporary blues, the history of black female gospel-inflected voices in the Broadway musical, and "hip-hop feminism" and its complications. Focusing on under-examined contexts, authors introduce readers to the work of a prominent gospel announcer, women’s music festivals (predominantly lesbian), and to women’s involvement in an early avant-garde black music collective. In contradistinction to a compilation of biographies, this volume critically illuminates themes of black authenticity, sexual politics, access, racial uplift through music, and the challenges of writing (black) feminist biography. Black Women and Music is a strong reminder that black women have been and are both social actors and artists contributing to African American thought.

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Black Women and Politics in New York City
Julie A. Gallagher
University of Illinois Press, 2014
An essential contribution to twentieth-century political history, Black Women and Politics in New York City documents African American women in New York City fighting for justice, civil rights, and equality in the turbulent world of formal politics from the suffrage and women's rights movements to the feminist era of the 1970s.

Historian and human rights activist Julie A. Gallagher deftly examines how race, gender, and the structure of the state itself shape outcomes, and exposes the layers of power and discrimination at work in American society. She combines her analysis with a look at the career of Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress and the first to run for president on a national party ticket. In so doing, she rewrites twentieth-century women's history and the dominant narrative arcs of feminist history that hitherto ignored African American women and their accomplishments.


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Black Women, Identity, and Cultural Theory
(Un)Becoming the Subject
Kevin Everod Quashie
Rutgers University Press, 2004

 In Black Women, Identity, and Cultural Theory, Kevin Everod Quashie explores the metaphor of the “girlfriend” as a new way of understanding three central concepts of cultural studies: self, memory, and language. He considers how the work of writers such as Toni Morrison, Ama Ata Aidoo, Dionne Brand, photographer Lorna Simpson, and many others, inform debates over the concept of identity. Quashie argues that these authors and artists replace the notion of a stable, singular identity with the concept of the self developing in a process both communal and perpetually fluid, a relationship that functions in much the same way that an adult woman negotiates with her girlfriend(s). He suggests that memory itself is corporeal, a literal body that is crucial to the process of becoming. Quashie also explores the problem language poses for the black woman artist and her commitment to a mastery that neither colonizes nor excludes.

The analysis throughout interacts with schools of thought such as psychoanalysis, postmodernism, and post-colonialism, but ultimately moves beyond these to propose a new cultural aesthetic, one that ultimately aims to center black women and their philosophies.


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Black Women in America
Social Science Perspectives
Edited by Micheline R. Malson, Elisabeth Mudimbe-Boyi, Jean F. O'Barr, and Mary
University of Chicago Press, 1990
Emphasizing work that "frees our imaginations and allows us to conceive new theories, new language, and new questions," the collection seeks to establish the nature of Afro-American women's experiences while providing a theoretical framework for Black feminist thought. In essays that explore the intersection of work and family, socio-historical literature and critiques, and the relation of Black women to community life, contributors to this volume document Afro-American social and personal struggles and strategies. Individual essays examine family roles, job satisfaction, economic status, and women's traditions in the church.
An eloquent introduction to the development of Black feminist thought, Black Women in America encourages the discussion of broader issues, such as the treatment of cultural diversity in American higher education.

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Black Women in Latin America and the Caribbean
Critical Research and Perspectives
Melanie A. Medeiros
Rutgers University Press, 2023
Black Women in Latin America and the Caribbean: Critical Research and Perspectives employs an intersectional and interdisciplinary approach to examine Black cisgender women’s social, cultural, economic, and political experiences in Latin America and the Caribbean. It presents critical empirical research emphasizing Black women’s innovative, theoretical, and methodological approaches to activism and class-based gendered racism and Black politics. While there are a few single-authored books focused on Black women in Latin American and Caribbean, the vast majority of the scholarship on Black women in Latin America and the Caribbean has been published as theses, dissertations, articles, and book chapters. This volume situates these social and political analyses as interrelated and dialogic and contributes a transnational perspective to contemporary conversations surrounding the continued relevance of Black women as a category of social science inquiry. Many of the contributing authors are from Latin American and Caribbean countries, reflecting a commitment to representing the valuable observations and lived experiences of scholars from this region. When read together, the chapters offer a hemispheric framework for understanding the lasting legacies of colonialism, transatlantic slavery, plantation life, and persistent socio-economic and cultural violence.

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Black Women in the Fiction of James Baldwin
Trudier Harris
University of Tennessee Press, 1985
In James Baldwin's fiction, according to Trudier Harris, black women are conceptually limited figures until their author ceases to measure them by standards of the community fundamentalist church. Harris analyzes works written over a thirty-year period to show how Baldwin's development of female character progresses through time.

Black women in the early fiction, responding to their elders as well as to religious influences, see their lives in terms of duty as wives, mothers, sisters, and lovers. Failure in any of these roles leads to guilt feelings and the expectation of damnation. In later works, Baldwin adopts a new point of view, acknowledging complex extenuating circumstances in lieu of pronouncing moral judgement. Female characters in works written at this stage eventually come to believe that the church affords no comfort.

Baldwin subsequently makes villains of some female churchgoers, and caring women who do not attend church become his most attractive characters. Still later in Baldwin's career, a woman who frees herself of guilt by moving completely beyond the church attains greater contentment than almost all of her counterparts in the earlier works.  

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Blues Mamas and Broadway Belters
Black Women, Voice, and the Musical Stage
Masi Asare
Duke University Press, 2024
In Blues Mamas and Broadway Belters, songwriter, scholar, and dramatist Masi Asare explores the singing practice of Black women singers in US musical theatre between 1900 and 1970. Asare shows how a vanguard of Black women singers including Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, Pearl Bailey, Juanita Hall, Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt, Diahann Carroll, and Leslie Uggams create a lineage of highly trained and effective voice teachers whose sound and vocal techniques continue to be heard today. Challenging pervasive narratives that these and other Black women possessed “untrained” voices, Asare theorizes singing as a form of sonic citational practice—how the sound of the teacher’s voice lives on in the student’s singing. From vaudeville-blues shouters, black torch singers and character actresses to nightclub vocalists and Broadway glamour girls, Asare locates Black women of the musical stage in the context of historical voice pedagogy. She invites readers to not only study these singers, but to study with them—taking seriously what they and their contemporaries have taught about the voice. Ultimately, Asare speaks to the need to feel and hear the racial history in contemporary musical theatre.

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Colored Amazons
Crime, Violence, and Black Women in the City of Brotherly Love, 1880–1910
Kali N. Gross
Duke University Press, 2006
Colored Amazons is a groundbreaking historical analysis of the crimes, prosecution, and incarceration of black women in Philadelphia at the turn of the twentieth century. Kali N. Gross reconstructs black women’s crimes and their representations in popular press accounts and within the discourses of urban and penal reform. Most importantly, she considers what these crimes signified about the experiences, ambitions, and frustrations of the marginalized women who committed them. Gross argues that the perpetrators and the state jointly constructed black female crime. For some women, crime functioned as a means to attain personal and social autonomy. For the state, black female crime and its representations effectively galvanized and justified a host of urban reform initiatives that reaffirmed white, middle-class authority.

Gross draws on prison records, trial transcripts, news accounts, and rare mug shot photographs. Providing an overview of Philadelphia’s black women criminals, she describes the women’s work, housing, and leisure activities and their social position in relation to the city’s native-born whites, European immigrants, and elite and middle-class African Americans. She relates how news accounts exaggerated black female crime, trading in sensationalistic portraits of threatening “colored Amazons,” and she considers criminologists’ interpretations of the women’s criminal acts, interpretations largely based on notions of hereditary criminality. Ultimately, Gross contends that the history of black female criminals is in many ways a history of the rift between the political rhetoric of democracy and the legal and social realities of those marginalized by its shortcomings.


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Demonic Grounds
Black Women And The Cartographies Of Struggle
Katherine McKittrick
University of Minnesota Press, 2006
IIn a long overdue contribution to geography and social theory, Katherine McKittrick offers a new and powerful interpretation of black women’s geographic thought. In Canada, the Caribbean, and the United States, black women inhabit diasporic locations marked by the legacy of violence and slavery. Analyzing diverse literatures and material geographies, McKittrick reveals how human geographies are a result of racialized connections, and how spaces that are fraught with limitation are underacknowledged but meaningful sites of political opposition.

Demonic Grounds moves between past and present, archives and fiction, theory and everyday, to focus on places negotiated by black women during and after the transatlantic slave trade. Specifically, the author addresses the geographic implications of slave auction blocks, Harriet Jacobs’s attic, black Canada and New France, as well as the conceptual spaces of feminism and Sylvia Wynter’s philosophies.

Central to McKittrick’s argument are the ways in which black women are not passive recipients of their surroundings and how a sense of place relates to the struggle against domination. Ultimately, McKittrick argues, these complex black geographies are alterable and may provide the opportunity for social and cultural change.

Katherine McKittrick is assistant professor of women’s studies at Queen’s University.

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Divas on Screen
Black Women in American Film
Mia Mask
University of Illinois Press, 2008

This insightful study places African American women's stardom in historical and industrial contexts by examining the star personae of five African American women: Dorothy Dandridge, Pam Grier, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Halle Berry. Interpreting each woman's celebrity as predicated on a brand of charismatic authority, Mia Mask shows how these female stars have ultimately complicated the conventional discursive practices through which blackness and womanhood have been represented in commercial cinema, independent film, and network television.

Mask examines the function of these stars in seminal yet underanalyzed films. She considers Dandridge's status as a sexual commodity in films such as Tamango, revealing the contradictory discourses regarding race and sexuality in segregation-era American culture. Grier's feminist-camp performances in sexploitation pictures Women in Cages and The Big Doll House and her subsequent blaxploitation vehicles Coffy and Foxy Brown highlight a similar tension between representing African American women as both objectified stereotypes and powerful, self-defining icons. Mask reads Goldberg's transforming habits in Sister Act and The Associate as representative of her unruly comedic routines, while Winfrey's daily television performance as self-made, self-help guru echoes Horatio Alger narratives of success. Finally, Mask analyzes Berry's meteoric success by acknowledging the ways in which Dandridge's career made Berry's possible.


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Fighting Words
Black Women and the Search for Justice
Patricia Hill Collins
University of Minnesota Press, 1998
When Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins was published in 1990, reviewers called it "remarkable," "rich and valuable," and proclaimed, "with the publication of this book, Black feminism has moved to a new level." Now, in Fighting Words, Collins expands and extends the discussion of the "outsider within" presented in her earlier work, investigating how effectively Black feminist thought confronts the injustices African American women currently face. Collins takes on a broad range of issues-poverty, mothering, white supremacy and Afrocentrism, the resegregation of American society by race and class, the ideas of Sojourner Truth and how they can serve as a springboard for more liberating social theory. Contrasting social theories that support unjust power relations of race, class, gender, and nation with those that challenge inequalities, Collins investigates why some ideas are granted the status of "theory" while others remain "thought." "It is not that elites produce theory while everyone else produces mere thought," she writes. "Rather, elites possess the power to legitimate the knowledge that they define as theory as being universal, normative, and ideal." Collins argues that because African American women and other historically oppressed groups seek economic and social justice, their social theories may emphasize themes and work from assumptions that are different from those of mainstream American society, generating new angles of vision on injustice. Collins also puts such oppositional social theory to the test: while the words of these theories may challenge injustice, do the ideas make a difference in the lives of the people they claim to represent? Throughout, Collins provides an essential understanding of how "outsiders" resist mainstream perspectives, and what the mainstream can learn from such "outsiders." Historically situated yet transcending the specific, Fighting Words provides a new interpretive framework for both thinking through and overcoming social injustice. "In her perceptive book, Fighting Words, Patricia Hill Collins, a leading scholar in critical theory, argues that intellectuals who break with conventional wisdom are more of a threat to the establishment than their numbers might suggest." Joe R. Feagin in The Chronicle of Higher Education "Fighting Words is a treatise, if you will, encouraging all black women to engage in dialogue and to reach out to each other, regardless of education, income, or class. Fighting Words is an amazing work in the way it seamlessly combines the histories of black women and feminism. Even more impressive is the way Collins blends her personal experiences as a black woman, educator, and sociologist. Collins is all about telling the truth, now. That is probably why Fighting Words is such a revelation." Black Issues Book Review "Fighting Words ably demonstrates that Collins is still our leading theorist. Those who understand black women in terms of reductionist categories and who need to read this book probably won't. But it gives the rest of us another sharp implement with which to saw at the ropes." Women's Review of Books "Collins argues that the political gains of black women's 'talking back' now must be measured against changes brought on by the postmodern criticism of social science and Afrocentricism. Collins calls for a critical social theory that not only encourages black women's full participation in social life but actually grounds its own authority in its ability to enable black women's full participation." American Journal of Sociology "Collins' exploration of the question, 'What is knowledge?' demonstrates the value of a perspective that brings together the complex interrelationships of race, gender and social ranking. The text is both counter-theoretical and practical­­a readable, persuasive and important source. Highly recommended." The Diversity Factor "Advances a much needed discussion, beyond feminism and identity politics for black women and, presumably, for women of color generally." National Women's Studies Association Journal "Hill Collins provides a refreshing new look at theory that is not mired in obscure language but purposely written in multiple languages to welcome a broader audience. By using accessible/inclusive language and drawing on many schools of intellectual thought, she informs and educates across disciplines ­ a unique characteristic in academia. She delivers a critical and passionate work that is inspiring to a new generation of scholars and renews the spirit of existing scholars." Gender and Society "Collins has offered an excellent text that helps us understand not only Black feminist thought and its relationship to Black women's experiences, but also how it may help those of us truly working for social justice." Feminist Collections "This book has many suggestive ideas and well-thought-through social theoretical analyses. In line with her earlier work, Collins continues to argue that group positions generate epistemological standpoints from which people ask and answer questions of social knowledge in different ways. She considers whether recent theories of Black women as having 'intersectional' positions is a better conceptualization of the specific standpoint of Black women. Collins's book offers much to think about and to discuss for those involved in struggles generated by encounters and events beyond theory." Hypatia "This is a work that is both theoretically rich and yet deeply personal in its expressive voice. Collins points us toward the construction of new critical theoretical approaches that can effectively advance the struggles for social justice. Fighting Words is a powerful and passionate work." --Manning Marable Patricia Hill Collins is Charles Phelps Taft Professor of Sociology in the Department of African American Studies at the University of Cincinnati.

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Further To Fly
Black Women and the Politics of Empowerment
Sheila Radford-Hill
University of Minnesota Press, 2000

How feminism has failed African American women and why they must fight back.

Amid the longest-running economic boom in American history and despite the emergence of a significant black middle class, the lot of low-income black people in general-and black women in particular-seems more troubling than ever. Their plight, Sheila Radford-Hill argues in this book, is directly related to the diminution of black women’s traditional power as culture bearers and community builders. A cogent critique of feminist theory and practice, Further to Fly identifies the failure of feminism to connect with the social realities it should seek to explain, in particular the decline of black women’s empowerment.

Further to Fly searches out the causes and effects of this decline, describing the ways in which, since the 1960s, black women have been stripped of their traditional status as agents of change in the community-and how, as a result, the black community has faltered. Radford-Hill explores the shortcomings of second-wave black and white feminism, revealing how their theoretical underpinnings have had unintended (and often unacknowledged) negative consequences for black women’s lives and their communities.While acknowledging that African American women have made significant contributions to the black struggle for justice in America, Radford-Hill argues that more needs to be done. She combines social criticism and critical analysis to argue that black women must revive their legacy of activism and reclaim the tradition of nurturing in the black community, proposing specific tactics that can be used to revive the support networks that help determine the obligations of community members and guide how people interact on an everyday level. As a deft account of genesis and effects of black women’s diminishing power, and as a sobering analysis of the devastating blunders of feminist theory and practice, this work makes a compelling argument for an "authentic feminism," one that aggressively connects the realities of women’s experiences, needs, aspirations, and responsibilities.

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The Georgia of the North
Black Women and the Civil Rights Movement in New Jersey
Hettie V. Williams
Rutgers University Press, 2024
The Georgia of the North is a historical narrative about Black women and the long civil rights movement in New Jersey from the Great Migration to 1954. Specifically, the critical role played by Black women in forging interracial, cross-class, and cross-gender alliances at the local and national level and their role in securing the passage of progressive civil rights legislation in the Garden State is at the core of this book. This narrative is largely defined by a central question:  How and why did New Jersey’s Black leaders, community members, and women in particular, affect major civil rights legislation, legal equality, and integration a decade before the Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas decision? In this analysis, the history of the early Black freedom struggle in New Jersey is predicated on the argument that the Civil Rights Movement began in New Jersey, and that Black women were central actors in this struggle. 

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The Grind
Black Women and Survival in the Inner City
McCurn, Alexis S
Rutgers University Press, 2018
Few scholars have explored the collective experiences of women living in the inner city and the innovative strategies they develop to navigate daily life in this setting. The Grind illustrates the lived experiences of poor African American women and the creative strategies they develop to manage these events and survive in a community commonly exposed to violence.
Alexis S. McCurn draws on nearly two years of naturalistic field research among adolescents and adults in Oakland, California to provide an ethnographic account of how black women accomplish the routine tasks necessary for basic survival in poor inner-city neighborhoods and how the intersections of race, gender, and class shape how black women interact with others in public. This book makes the case that the daily consequences of racialized poverty in the lives of African Americans cannot be fully understood without accounting for the personal and collective experiences of poor black women. 

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The Healing Stage
Black Women, Incarceration, and the Art of Transformation
Lisa Biggs
The Ohio State University Press, 2022
Winner, 2023 NCA Lilla A. Heston Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Interpretation and Performance Studies

Over the last five decades, Black women have been one of the fastest-growing segments of the global prison population, thanks to changes in policies that mandate incarceration for nonviolent offenses and criminalize what women do to survive interpersonal and state violence. In The Healing Stage, Lisa Biggs reveals how four ensembles of currently and formerly incarcerated women and their collaborating artists use theater and performance to challenge harmful policies and popular discourses that justify locking up “bad” women. Focusing on prison-based arts programs in the US and South Africa, Biggs illustrates how Black feminist cultural traditions—theater, dance, storytelling, poetry, humor, and protest—enable women to investigate the root causes of crime and refute dominant narratives about incarcerated women. In doing so, the arts initiatives that she writes about encourage individual and collective healing, a process of repair that exceeds state definitions of rehabilitation. These case studies offer powerful examples of how the labor of incarcerated Black women artists—some of the most marginalized and vulnerable people in our society—radically extends our knowledge of prison arts programs and our understanding of what is required to resolve human conflicts and protect women’s lives.

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Hiding in Plain Sight
Black Women, the Law, and the Making of a White Argentine Republic
Erika Denise Edwards
University of Alabama Press, 2020
Winner of The Association of Black Women Historians 2020 Letitia Woods-Brown Award for the best book in African American Women’s History and the 2021 Western Association of Women Historian's Barbara "Penny" Kanner Award
2021 Finalist for the Harriet Tubman Book Prize
2020 Finalist Berkshire Conference of
Women Historians Book Prize​

Details how African-descended women’s societal, marital, and sexual decisions forever reshaped the racial makeup of Argentina

Argentina promotes itself as a country of European immigrants. This makes it an exception to other Latin American countries, which embrace a more mixed—African, Indian, European—heritage. Hiding in Plain Sight: Black Women, the Law, and the Making of a White Argentine Republic traces the origins of what some white Argentines mischaracterize as a “black disappearance” by delving into the intimate lives of black women and explaining how they contributed to the making of a “white” Argentina. Erika Denise Edwards has produced the first comprehensive study in English of the history of African descendants outside of Buenos Aires in the late colonial and early republican periods, with a focus on how these women sought whiteness to better their lives and that of their children.

Edwards argues that attempts by black women to escape the stigma of blackness by recategorizing themselves and their descendants as white began as early as the late eighteenth century, challenging scholars who assert that the black population drastically declined at the end of the nineteenth century because of the whitening or modernization process. She further contends that in Córdoba, Argentina, women of African descent (such as wives, mothers, daughters, and concubines) were instrumental in shaping their own racial reclassifications and destinies.

This volume makes use of a wealth of sources to relate these women’s choices. The sources consulted include city censuses and notarial and probate records that deal with free and enslaved African descendants; criminal, ecclesiastical, and civil court cases; marriages and baptisms records and newsletters. These varied sources provide information about the day-to-day activities of cordobés society and how women of African descent lived, formed relationships, thrived, and partook in the transformation of racial identities in Argentina.

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In Praise of Black Women, Volume 1
Ancient African Queens
Simone Schwarz-Bart with Andre Schwarz-Bart
University of Wisconsin Press, 2001
    In Praise of Black Women is a magnificent tribute to women in Africa and the African diaspora from the ancient past to the present. Lavishly illustrated, with text written and selected by the celebrated Guadeloupian novelist Simone Schwarz-Bart, this four-volume series celebrates remarkable women who distinguished themselves in their time and shaped the course of culture and history.
    Volume 1: Ancient African Queens weaves together oral tradition, folk legends and stories, songs and poems, historical accounts, and travelers’ tales from Egypt to southern Africa, from prehistory to the nineteenth century. These women rulers, warriors, and heroines include Amanirenas, the queen of Kush who battled Roman armies and defeated them at Aswan; Daurama, mother of the seven Hausa kingdoms; Amina Kulibali, founder of the Gabu dynasty in Senegal; Ana de Sousa Nzinga, who resisted the Portuguese conquest of Angola; Beatrice Kimpa Vita, a Kongo prophet burned at the stake by Christian missionaries; Nanda, mother of the famous warrior-king Shaka Zulu; and many others.
    These extraordinary women's stories, narrated in the style of African oral tradition, are absorbing, informative, and accessible. The abundant illustrations, many of them rare archival images, depict the diversity among Black women and make this volume a unique treasure for every art lover, every school, and every family.

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Pitfalls of Prestige
Black Women and Literary Recognition
Laura Elizabeth Vrana
The Ohio State University Press, 2024
From 1987, when Rita Dove won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, to 2021, when Amanda Gorman skyrocketed to celebrity status after performing during Biden’s inauguration and the Super Bowl, Black women have seemingly attained secure, stable positions at the forefront of American poetry. But this prominence comes at a price. As figures like Dove and Elizabeth Alexander have become well known, receiving endorsements and gaining visible platforms from major prizes, academic institutions, and publishing houses, the underlying terms of evaluation that greet Black women’s poetics often remain superficial, reflecting efforts to co-opt and contain rather than meaningfully consider new voices and styles. In Pitfalls of Prestige, Laura Elizabeth Vrana surveys how developments in American literary institutions since 1980 have shaped—and been shaped by—Black women poets. Grappling with the refulgent works of the most acclaimed contemporary figures alongside lesser-known poets, Vrana both elucidates how seeming gestures of inclusion can actually result in constraining Black women poets’ works and also celebrates how these writers draw on a rich lineage and forge alternative communities to craft continually innovative modes of transgressing such limits, on the page and in life. 

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Practical Audacity
Black Women and International Human Rights
Stanlie James
University of Wisconsin Press, 2022
Goler Teal Butcher (1925–93), a towering figure in international human rights law, was a scholar and advocate who advanced an intersectional approach to human empowerment influenced by Black women’s intellectual traditions. Practical Audacity follows the stories of fourteen women whose work honors and furthers Butcher’s legacy. Their multilayered and sophisticated contributions have critically reshaped human rights scholarship and activism—including their major role in developing critical race feminism, community-based applications, and expanding the boundaries of human rights discourse.
Stanlie M. James weaves narratives by and about these women throughout the history of the field, illustrating how they conceptualize, develop, and implement human rights. By centering the courage and innovative interventions of capable and visionary Black women, she places them rightfully alongside such figures as Thurgood Marshall and Charles Hamilton Houston. This volume fundamentally shifts the frame through which human rights struggles are understood, illuminating how those who witness and experience oppression have made some of the biggest contributions to building a better world.

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The Pursuit of Happiness
Black Women, Diasporic Dreams, and the Politics of Emotional Transnationalism
Bianca C. Williams
Duke University Press, 2018
In The Pursuit of Happiness Bianca C. Williams traces the experiences of African American women as they travel to Jamaica, where they address the perils and disappointments of American racism by looking for intimacy, happiness, and a connection to their racial identities. Through their encounters with Jamaican online communities and their participation in trips organized by Girlfriend Tours International, the women construct notions of racial, sexual, and emotional belonging by forming relationships with Jamaican men and other "girlfriends." These relationships allow the women to exercise agency and find happiness in ways that resist the damaging intersections of racism and patriarchy in the United States. However, while the women require a spiritual and virtual connection to Jamaica in order to live happily in the United States, their notion of happiness relies on travel, which requires leveraging their national privilege as American citizens. Williams's theorization of "emotional transnationalism" and the construction of affect across diasporic distance attends to the connections between race, gender, and affect while highlighting how affective relationships mark nationalized and gendered power differentials within the African diaspora.

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Real Sister
Stereotypes, Respectability, and Black Women in Reality TV
Ward, Jervette R
Rutgers University Press, 2015
From The Real Housewives of Atlanta to Flavor of Love, reality shows with predominantly black casts have often been criticized for their negative representation of African American women as loud, angry, and violent. Yet even as these programs appear to be rehashing old stereotypes of black women, the critiques of them are arguably problematic in their own way, as the notion of “respectability” has historically been used to police black women’s behaviors.
The first book of scholarship devoted to the issue of how black women are depicted on reality television, Real Sister offers an even-handed consideration of the genre. The book’s ten contributors—black female scholars from a variety of disciplines—provide a wide range of perspectives, while considering everything from Basketball Wives to Say Yes to the Dress. As regular viewers of reality television, these scholars are able to note ways in which the genre presents positive images of black womanhood, even as they catalog a litany of stereotypes about race, class, and gender that it tends to reinforce.
Rather than simply dismissing reality television as “trash,” this collection takes the genre seriously, as an important touchstone in ongoing cultural debates about what constitutes “trashiness” and “respectability.” Written in an accessible style that will appeal to reality TV fans both inside and outside of academia, Real Sister thus seeks to inspire a more nuanced, thoughtful conversation about the genre’s representations and their effects on the black community. 

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Sex Workers, Psychics, and Numbers Runners
Black Women in New York City's Underground Economy
LaShawn Harris
University of Illinois Press, 2016
During the early twentieth century, a diverse group of African American women carved out unique niches for themselves within New York City's expansive informal economy. LaShawn Harris illuminates the labor patterns and economic activity of three perennials within this kaleidoscope of underground industry: sex work, numbers running for gambling enterprises, and the supernatural consulting business. Mining police and prison records, newspaper accounts, and period literature, Harris teases out answers to essential questions about these women and their working lives. She also offers a surprising revelation, arguing that the burgeoning underground economy served as a catalyst in working-class black women ™s creation of the employment opportunities, occupational identities, and survival strategies that provided them with financial stability and a sense of labor autonomy and mobility. At the same time, urban black women, all striving for economic and social prospects and pleasures, experienced the conspicuous and hidden dangers associated with newfound labor opportunities.

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Shadow Bodies
Black Women, Ideology, Representation, and Politics
Jordan-Zachery, Julia S.
Rutgers University Press, 2017
What does it mean for Black women to organize in a political context that has generally ignored them or been unresponsive although Black women have shown themselves an important voting bloc? How for example, does #sayhername translate into a political agenda that manifests itself in specific policies? Shadow Bodies focuses on the positionality of the Black woman’s body, which serves as a springboard for helping us think through political and cultural representations. It does so by asking: How do discursive practices, both speech and silences, support and maintain hegemonic understandings of Black womanhood thereby rendering some Black women as shadow bodies, unseen and unremarked upon?  

Grounded in Black feminist thought, Julia S. Jordan-Zachery looks at the functioning of scripts ascribed to Black women’s bodies in the framing of HIV/AIDS, domestic abuse, and mental illness and how such functioning renders some bodies invisible in Black politics in general and Black women’s politics specifically. 

front cover of Sister Circle
Sister Circle
Black Women and Work
Harley, Sharon
Rutgers University Press, 2002

Although black women’s labor was essential to the development of the United States, studies of these workers have lagged far behind those of working black men and white women. Adding insult to injury, a stream of images in film, television, magazines, and music continues to portray the work of black women in a negative light.

Sister Circle offers an innovative approach to representing work in the lives of black women. Contributors from many fields explore an array of lives and activities, allowing us to see for the first time the importance of black women’s labor in the aftermath of slavery. A brand new light is shed on black women’s roles in the tourism industry, as nineteenth-century social activists, as labor leaders, as working single mothers, as visual artists, as authors and media figures, as church workers, and in many other fields. A unique feature of the book is that each contributor provides an autobiographical statement, connecting her own life history to the subject she surveys.

The first group of essays, “Work It Sista!” identifies the sites of black women’s paid and unpaid work. In “Foremothers: The Shoulders on Which We Stand,” contributors look to the past for the different kinds of work that black women have performed over the last two centuries. Essays in “Women’s Work through the Artist’s Eyes” highlight black women’s work in literature, drama, and the visual arts. The collection concludes with “Detours on the Road to Work: Blessings in Disguise,” writings surveying connections between black women’s personal and professional lives.


front cover of Sojourning for Freedom
Sojourning for Freedom
Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism
Erik S. McDuffie
Duke University Press, 2011
Sojourning for Freedom portrays pioneering black women activists from the early twentieth century through the 1970s, focusing on their participation in the U.S. Communist Party (CPUSA) between 1919 and 1956. Erik S. McDuffie considers how women from diverse locales and backgrounds became radicalized, joined the CPUSA, and advocated a pathbreaking politics committed to black liberation, women’s rights, decolonization, economic justice, peace, and international solidarity. McDuffie explores the lives of black left feminists, including the bohemian world traveler Louise Thompson Patterson, who wrote about the “triple exploitation” of race, gender, and class; Esther Cooper Jackson, an Alabama-based civil rights activist who chronicled the experiences of black female domestic workers; and Claudia Jones, the Trinidad-born activist who emerged as one of the Communist Party’s leading theorists of black women’s exploitation. Drawing on more than forty oral histories collected from veteran black women radicals and their family members, McDuffie examines how these women negotiated race, gender, class, sexuality, and politics within the CPUSA. In Sojourning for Freedom, he depicts a community of radical black women activist intellectuals who helped to lay the foundation for a transnational modern black feminism.

front cover of Spirit on the Move
Spirit on the Move
Black Women and Pentecostalism in Africa and the Diaspora
Judith Casselberry and Elizabeth Pritchard, editors
Duke University Press, 2019
Pentecostalism is currently the fastest-growing Christian movement, with hundreds of millions of followers. This growth overwhelmingly takes place outside of the West, and women make up 75 percent of the membership. The contributors to Spirit on the Move examine Pentecostalism's appeal to black women worldwide and the ways it provides them with a source of community and access to power. Exploring a range of topics, from Neo-Pentecostal churches in Ghana that help women challenge gender norms to evangelical gospel musicians in Brazil, the contributors show how Pentecostalism helps black women draw attention to and seek remediation from the violence and injustices brought on by civil war, capitalist exploitation, racism, and the failures of the state. In fleshing out the experiences, theologies, and innovations of black women Pentecostals, the contributors show how Pentecostal belief and its various practices reflect the movement's complexity, reach, and adaptability to specific cultural and political formations.

Contributors. Paula Aymer, John Burdick, Judith Casselberry, Deidre Helen Crumbley, Elizabeth McAlister, Laura Premack, Elizabeth A. Pritchard, Jane Soothill, Linda van de Kamp

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Stepping Forward
Black Women in Africa and the Americas
Catherine Higgs
Ohio University Press, 2002

A unique and important study, Stepping Forward examines the experiences of nineteenth- and twentieth-century black women in Africa and African diaspora communities from a variety of perspectives in a number of different settings.

This wide-ranging collection designed for classroom use explores the broad themes that have shaped black women’s goals, options, and responses: religion, education, political activism, migration, and cultural transformation. Essays by leading scholars in the field examine the lives of black women in the United States and the Caribbean Basin; in the white settler societies of Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa; and in the black settler societies of Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Among the contributors to this volume are historians, political scientists, and scholars of literature, music, and law. What emerges from their work is an image of black women’s agency, self-reliance, and resiliency. Despite cultural differences and geographical variations, black women have provided foundations on which black communities have not only survived, but also thrived. Stepping Forward is a valuable addition to our understanding of women’s roles in these diverse communities.


front cover of A Taste for Brown Sugar
A Taste for Brown Sugar
Black Women in Pornography
Mireille Miller-Young
Duke University Press, 2014
A Taste for Brown Sugar boldly takes on representations of black women's sexuality in the porn industry. It is based on Mireille Miller-Young's extensive archival research and her interviews with dozens of women who have worked in the adult entertainment industry since the 1980s. The women share their thoughts about desire and eroticism, black women's sexuality and representation, and ambition and the need to make ends meet. Miller-Young documents their interventions into the complicated history of black women's sexuality, looking at individual choices, however small—a costume, a gesture, an improvised line—as small acts of resistance, of what she calls "illicit eroticism." Building on the work of other black feminist theorists, and contributing to the field of sex work studies, she seeks to expand discussion of black women's sexuality to include their eroticism and desires, as well as their participation and representation in the adult entertainment industry. Miller-Young wants the voices of black women sex workers heard, and the decisions they make, albeit often within material and industrial constraints, recognized as their own.

front cover of To Turn the Whole World Over
To Turn the Whole World Over
Black Women and Internationalism
Edited by Keisha N. Blain and Tiffany M. Gill
University of Illinois Press, 2019
Black women undertook an energetic and unprecedented engagement with internationalism from the late nineteenth century to the 1970s. In many cases, their work reflected a complex effort to merge internationalism with issues of women's rights and with feminist concerns. To Turn the Whole World Over examines these and other issues with a collection of cutting-edge essays on black women's internationalism in this pivotal era and beyond. Analyzing the contours of gender within black internationalism, scholars examine the range and complexity of black women's global engagements. At the same time, they focus on these women's remarkable experiences in shaping internationalist movements and dialogues. The essays explore the travels and migrations of black women; the internationalist writings of women from Paris to Chicago to Spain; black women advocating for internationalism through art and performance; and the involvement of black women in politics, activism, and global freedom struggles. Contributors: Nicole Anae, Keisha N. Blain, Brandon R. Byrd, Stephanie Beck Cohen, Anne Donlon, Tiffany N. Florvil, Kim Gallon, Dayo F. Gore, Annette K. Joseph-Gabriel, Grace V. Leslie, Michael O. West, and Julia Erin Wood

front cover of When Will the Joy Come?
When Will the Joy Come?
Black Women in the Ivory Tower
Edited by Robin Phylisia Chapdelaine, Michelle Dionne Thompson, and Abena Ampofoa Asare
University of Massachusetts Press, 2023

How do Black women in higher education create, experience, and understand joy? What sustains them? While scholars have long documented sexism, racism, and classism in the academy, one topic has been conspicuously absent from the literature—how Black women academics have found joy in the midst of adversity. Moving beyond questions of resilience, labor for others, and coping, When Will the Joy Come? focuses on the journeys of over thirty Black women at various stages of their careers.

Joy is a mixture of well-being, pleasure, alignment, and purpose that can be elusive for Black women scholars. With racial reckoning and a global pandemic as context, this volume brings together honest and vital essays that ponder how Black women balance fatigue and frustrations in the halls of the ivory tower, and explore where, when, and if joy enters their lives. By carefully contemplating the emotional, physical, and material consequences of their labor, this collection demonstrates that joy is a tactical and strategic component of Black women’s struggle.


front cover of You're Dead—So What?
You're Dead—So What?
Media, Police, and the Invisibility of Black Women as Victims of Homicide
Cheryl L. Neely
Michigan State University Press, 2015
Though numerous studies have been conducted regarding perceived racial bias in newspaper reporting of violent crimes, few studies have focused on the intersections of race and gender in determining the extent and prominence of this coverage, and more specifically how the lack of attention to violence against women of color reinforces their invisibility in the social structure. This book provides an empirical study of media and law enforcement bias in reporting and investigating homicides of African American women compared with their white counterparts. The author discusses the symbiotic relationship between media coverage and the response from law enforcement to victims of color, particularly when these victims are reported missing and presumed to be in danger by their loved ones. Just as the media are effective in helping to increase police response, law enforcement officials reach out to news outlets to solicit help from the public in locating a missing person or solving a murder. However, a deeply troubling disparity in reporting the disappearance and homicides of female victims reflects racial inequality and institutionalized racism in the social structure that need to be addressed. It is this disparity this important study seeks to solve.

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