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Black Feminism(s)

Fall 2019 AAS 358.12, WOMENSTD 343 MW 5:30-7:00 Mason Hall G449

Instructors: Prof. SaraEllen Strongman Email: sstron@umich.edu

Office Hours: T 12:30-3:00pm and by appointment

Course Description

What is Black Feminism? In this course, we will explore the history of Black women’s gendered and racial politics in the United States and, in particular, how their beliefs and experiences have differed from other groups. How have Black women pushed back against and attempted to reshape traditional, Eurocentric, “white feminist” politics? How have Black Feminist responses to racism diverged from and challenged mainstream and Black masculinist political scripts? We will explore these questions as well as representations of Black women’s sexuality and political activism. Course readings are drawn from a variety of disciplines and time periods with the goal of exposing students to the history of Black Feminist thought and the breadth of Black Feminist scholarship, activism, and methodologies. By the end of the semester, students will be conversant in the major concepts of Black Feminism and Black Women’s Studies and have developed the analytical tools to understand how race, gender, and class interact to produce the unique experiences of Black women in the United States.

Course Information and Guidelines

Given the subject of this class, many of the topics in this course will be hard to talk about. The works we will read include discussions of sexual violence, racism, sexism, and domestic abuse, as well as other difficult topics. Our in-class discussions will also be intellectually and emotionally challenging. I will do my best to create a supportive classroom environment where we can discuss these topics bravely together with the seriousness that they deserve. I understand that each of you will bring your own unique experiences and backgrounds with you into the classroom and that these things will shape your experiences of this class and especially of our discussions of difficult topics. I ask that likewise you keep this in mind about your peers. We have no way of knowing anyone else’s life. As such, please do not make assumptions or generalizations based on your own experiences. I also ask that you respect each other’s opinions and beliefs, even if they may be different from your own. In class, when we are discussing ideas and you disagree with each other, be sure to challenge or critique an idea and not the person voicing it. Above all please be open- minded and make space for others to do the same.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course you should be able to:

Understand the basic tenets of U.S. Black feminist thought and theory

Articulate how the history of Black Feminism in the United States has intersected with and diverged from mainstream feminist movements

Critically analyze texts and objects using Black feminist frameworks

Class Attendance

Consistent, on time attendance is expected in this course. In order to participate in the course and get the most out of it, you need to be in class. However, I understand that things happen. As such, each student has up to three (3) “unexcused” absences per semester without the need for documentation and without penalty. You do not need to tell me why you are unable to attend class, but you do need to notify me ahead of time that you will not be in attendance.

Any absences without documentation or prior approval beyond the two (2) “unexcused” absences may result in a reduction to your overall grade and necessitate a meeting with me.


I am committed to supporting all students. If you think you may need an accommodation for a

disability, please let me know at the beginning of the term. Next, you should contact the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office. Once your eligibility for an accommodation has been determined, you will be issued a Verified Individual Services Accommodation (VISA) form and we can arrange for your accommodation. Any information you provide is private and confidential and will be treated as such. If you already have a VISA form from SSD, please

present this form to me at the beginning of the term, but no later than at least two weeks prior to the need for the accommodation so that there is enough time for the appropriate arrangements

to be made.

accommodation, please visit me during office hours to discuss your options.

Additionally, if you do not have a documented disability, but believe you need an

Technology in the Classroom

I allow technology in my classrooms as long as they are used consistently for coursework only. I

understand and expect students to use laptops, tablets, and (on occasion) even phones to access course materials. Please note that inappropriate use of technology may result in changes to this policy. At times, I will ask that technology is put away for certain class activities. I expect all students to follow instructions in these instances. If you have any concerns about technology or believe you will need additional use of or access to technology in order to succeed in this course, please let me know.

Student Well-Being and Basic Needs

In order to be academically successful, you must be well—mentally, emotionally, and physically. Both the University of Michigan as a whole and I, personally, are committed to advancing the health and well-being of students. If you need support or other services, there are many resources available including Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) (734.764.8312), Psychiatric

Emergency Services (734.996.4747), the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) (24-Hour Line: 734.936.3333), and others.

In addition, any student who faces challenges securing their food or housing and believes this may affect their performance in the course is urged to contact the Dean of Students for support. Furthermore, please notify me if you are comfortable in doing so. This will enable me to help connect you to resources like Student Food Co. and Maize & Blue Cupboard and to assist you in navigating university offices to secure support.

Academic Misconduct

The University of Michigan community functions best when its members treat one another with honesty, fairness, respect, and trust. The college promotes the assumption of personal responsibility and integrity, and prohibits all forms of academic dishonesty and misconduct. All cases of academic misconduct will be referred to the Office of the Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education. Being found responsible for academic misconduct will usually result in a grade sanction, in addition to any sanction from the college. For more information, including examples of behaviors that are considered academic misconduct and potential sanctions, please see http://lsa.umich.edu/lsa/academics/academic-integrity.html

Course Requirements & Grading

Participation (30%): Students are expected to complete each week’s reading and strive to participate consistently and enthusiastically in class discussion. Substantive engagement with the assigned materials is valued over volume, as such asking questions is encourage and constitutes participation.

Annotation and Discussion Posts (15%): Students will be annotating some of the assigned readings using the free online social annotation tool Hypothes.is. For those readings, each student is required to add at least two questions, comments, or replies to the document by midnight the night before class. Readings that will be annotated using Hypothes.is are indicated on the syllabus and on Canvas.

Writing Assignments (30%): There are three short papers on different topics due throughout the semester. They are weighted differently but together they account for 30% of the total final grade.

Final Project (25%): The final project, which can be either a creative one or a traditional research paper is worth 25% of your final grade. The grade for the final project will be made up of grades from the project proposal and the finished project.


***All assignments will be submitted via Canvas. Please note that they are due at 5:00pm EST***

Assignment #1 – Image Analysis (5%): Choose an image (art object, photograph, meme, etc.) that you believe relates to the themes of the course and write a 1-2pg paper explaining why you chose the image you did and how it relates to the course topics. Your paper should cite at least one of the assigned readings. Questions to consider for this assignment include: What have you learned so far this semester about Black Feminisms? Where and how do you see Black Feminists and their ideas in current events or on the news? Due Tuesday, October 1 st .

Assignment #2 Blog Post (10%): Drawing on course readings, write a 2-3pg “blog post” that critically analyzes a current event or narrative (e.g. television show, film, novel, etc.) through a Black feminist lens. The purpose of this assignment is to apply what you have learned so far in this course to something outside of the course. Due Friday, November 1 st .

Assignment #3 – Music Video Analysis (15%): In 4-6 pages analyze one of the following music videos using texts, theories, and methods drawn from course materials and class discussion. The goal of this exercise is to bring together analysis of the visual and narrative texts of a music video with an examination of the lyrics and the application of a critical Black Feminist framework. Your paper should address how the music video as a text represents Black women’s sexuality and corporeality, keeping in mind issues of authorship, embodiment, pleasure, and subjectivity. Due Thursday, November 21st.

Questions you might explore in this paper include: How does the visual representation within the music video reflect or differ from the content of the song? And what is the overall depiction of Black women and Black female sexuality within the music video as a text? What narratives about Black women and Black female sexuality does the video propagate? Is this narrative political? What other threads of political discourse can you discern in the video?

Music Videos:

Ø Lil Kim, “How Many Licks” (2005)

Ø Nicki Minaj, “Anaconda” (2014)

Ø Rihanna, “Pour It Up” (2013)

Ø Cardi B “Money” (2018)

Final Project (30%): Students will have the option of completing either a traditional research paper (10-15pp) or a creative project and an artist’s statement (8-10pp). This assignment has two components: the project proposal and the final project.

The project proposal is a 1pg document that includes 1) a description of the paper or creative project you wish to undertake that includes the research questions that motivate your project and how it relates to the themes of the course and 2) an annotated bibliography of 3-5 scholarly sources you plan to use. Due Thursday, December 5 th .

The final project itself should reflect both your initial proposal and whatever feedback you received on it. Creative projects can include visual art, music (including playlists), poetry or creative fiction, etc. The creative component must be turned in with the accompanying artist statement, which explains how the piece was created and its significance. Due Thursday, December 18 th .

***All assignments should be formatted as 12pt in a standard font (Times New Roman, Calibri, etc.), double-spaced, with 1” margins. Please upload as .pdf or .doc or .docx files.***

Course Schedule

Wednesday, September 4

Syllabus review and course objectives

Monday, September 9: Definitions

Combahee River Collective Statement *Annotate w/Hypothes.is

Alice Walker. “Definition of Womanism.

Patricia Hill Collins. "What's in a name? Womanism, Black feminism, and beyond." The Black Scholar 26.1 (1996): 9-17.

Wednesday, September 11: Histories

Patricia Hill Collins. "The social construction of black feminist thought."

Ula Taylor. "The historical evolution of Black feminist theory and praxis." Journal of Black Studies 29, no. 2 (1998): 234-253.

bell hooks. “Black Women Shaping Feminist Theory,” from Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. Cambridge: South End Press, 1980.

Monday, September 16: Foremothers

Anna Julia Cooper. “The Status of Woman in America” and “Womanhood A Vital Element in the Regeneration and Progress of the Race.

Sojourner Truth. “Ain’t I A Woman?

Wednesday, September 18


Monday, September 23: Foremothers (cont.)

Ida Wells-Barnett. “Lynch Law in America.

Angela Davis. “The Meaning of Emancipation According to Black Women.”

Wednesday, September 25: The Second Wave & Black Women

Toni Morrison. “What the Black Woman Thinks of Women’s Lib.” 1976.

The New York Times. *Annotate w/Hypothes.is

Bernice Johnson Reagon. "Coalition politics: Turning the century." Home girls: A Black feminist anthology. (1983).

Hazel Carby. "White woman listen! Black feminism and the boundaries of sisterhood." Black British cultural studies: A reader (1996): 61-86.

Monday, September 30: The Second Wave & Black Women

Eleanor Holmes Norton. “Sadie and Maude” from The Black Woman’s Manifesto

Linda LaRue. “The Black Movement and the Women’s Movement” from The Black Woman’s Manifesto

****Writing Assignment #1 Due Tuesday, October 1 st by 5:00pm****

Wednesday, October 2: Before Intersectionality

Deborah K. King. "Multiple jeopardy, multiple consciousness: The context of a Black feminist ideology."

Frances M. Beale. "Double jeopardy: To be Black and female." from The Black Woman’s Manifesto

Monday, October 7: Intersectionality

Kimberle Crenshaw. "Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color." Stanford law review (1991): 1241-1299. *Annotate w/Hypothes.is

Wednesday, October 9

Brittney Cooper. “Intersectionality,” in the Oxford Handbook of Feminist Theory

Monday, October 14


Wednesday, October 16: The Politics of Respectability

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham. "The politics of respectability" from Righteous Discontent: The Women's Movement in the Black Baptist Church 1920 (1880): 185-230.

E. Frances White. “Black Feminist Interventions” from Dark Continent of Our Bodies: Black Feminism and the Politics of Respectability. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2001. 25-80.

Jennifer C. Nash. “Archives of Pain: Reading the Black Feminist Archive,” The Black Body in Ecstasy: Reading Race, Reading Pornography. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014.

Monday, October 21: Sexual Violence

Darlene Clark Hine. "Rape and the inner lives of Black women in the Middle West."

Patricia Hill Collins. "The social construction of black feminist thought."

Danielle L. McGuire. “A Black Woman’s Body Was Never Hers Alone” from At The Dark End of The Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance. New York: Vintage, 2010.

Wednesday, October 23: Reproduction and Abortion

Dorothy E. Roberts. “Making Reproduction a Crime” and “The Dark Side of Birth Control,” from Killing the black body: Race, reproduction, and the meaning of liberty. New York:

Vintage Books, 1999.

Shirley Chisholm. "Facing the Abortion Question.”

Angela Y. Davis. “Racism, Birth Control, and Reproductive Rights.” Women, race, & class. Vintage, 2011.

Monday, October 28: Sexuality

bell hooks. “Selling Hot Pussy: Representations of Black Female Sexuality in the Cultural Marketplace” and “Eating the Other” from Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston:

South End Press, 1999. 61-77.

hattie gossett. “is it true what they say about colored pussy?” and “yo daddy – an 80s version of the dozens,” Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality, ed. Carol Vance. Boston: Routledge, 1984.

Wednesday, October 30: Sexuality, Cont.

Evelynn Hammonds. “Black (W)holes and the Geometry of Black Female Sexuality,” differences 6.2+3 (1994): 126-145. *Annotate w/Hypothes.is

Janell Hobson. "The “batty” politic: Toward an aesthetic of the black female body." Hypatia 18, no. 4 (2003): 87-105.

Laura Alexandra Harris. "Queer black feminism: The pleasure principle." Feminist Review 54.1 (1996): 3-30.

Audre Lorde. “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power,” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. Berkeley: Crossing Press, 1984.

****Writing Assignment #1 Due Friday, November 1 st by 5:00pm****

Monday, November 4: Sexuality, The Flip Side

Patricia Hill Collins. “Get Your Freak On: Sex, Babies, and Images of Black Femininity,” from Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. New York:

Routledge, 2004.

Mireille Miller-Young. "Hip-hop honeys and da hustlaz: Black sexualities in the new hip- hop pornography." Meridians 8, no. 1 (2008): 261-292.

Cathy Cohen. “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?” GLQ 3.4 (January 1997): 437-65. *Annotate w/Hypothes.is

Wednesday, November 6: Hip Hop Feminism

Joan Morgan. “hip hop feminist,” from when chickenheads come home to roost…: a black feminist breaks it down. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Tricia Rose. “Bad Sistas: Black Women Rappers and Sexual Politics in Rap Musicfrom Black noise: Rap and Black Music in Contemporary America. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1994.

Monday, November 11: Black Women in Music Videos

Nicole R. Fleetwood. "The case of Rihanna: erotic violence and black female desire." African American Review 45.3 (2012): 419-435

Muraji Balaji. "Vixen resistin’: Redefining Black womanhood in hip-hop music videos." Journal of Black Studies (2008).

Wednesday, November 13: Black Women Doin’ Too Much

Janell Hobson. “Feminists Debate Beyonce,” The Beyonce Effect: Essays on Sexuality, Race, and Feminism. Jefferson: McFarland & Co, 2016.

Nicole Fleetwood. “Excess Flesh: Black Women Performing Hypervisibility,” Troubling Visions: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.

Therí A. Pickens. “Shoving aside the politics of respectability: black women, reality TV, and the ratchet performance, Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory, 25:1(2015): 41-58

Monday, November 18: The Angry Black Woman

Brittney Cooper. “Refereeing Serena: Racism, Anger, and (US) Women’s Tennis,” from Crunk Feminist Collection.

Claudia Rankine, “The Meaning of Serena Williams,” The New York Times, August 25,


Claudia Rankin. selected poems from Citizen. Minneapolis: Grey Wolf Press, 2014.

Melissa Harris-Perry. “Strength,” from Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011.

Bettina Judd. "Sapphire as Praxis: Toward a Methodology of Anger." Feminist Studies 45, no. 1 (2019): 178-208.

Wednesday, November 20: The Black Lady and Respectability

Nellie Y. McKay. “Remember Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas: What Really Happened When One Black Woman Spoke Out,” from Morrison, Toni, ed. Race-ing justice, en- gendering power: Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the construction of social reality. New York: Pantheon, 1992.

Lisa B. Thompson. “The Spectacle of the Respectable: Anita Hill and the Problem of Innocence” in Beyond the black lady: Sexuality and the new African American middle class.

“African American Women in Defense of Ourselves,” The New York Times, Nov. 17, 1991

****Written Assignment #2 Due Thursday, November 21 st by 5:00pm****

Monday, November 25: The Case of Michelle Obama

Brittney Cooper. "A'n't I a lady?: race women, Michelle Obama, and the ever-expanding democratic imagination." MELUS 35, no. 4 (2010): 39-57.

Farah Jasmine Griffin. "At Last…?: Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, Race & History." Daedalus 140, no. 1 (2011): 131-141.

Wednesday, November 27


Monday, December 2: Misogynoir

Nina Alvarez and David Schisgall, Very Young Girls (2007)

Moya Bailey. Definition of Misogynoir, Tumblr (2013)

Audre Lorde, “Sexism: An American Disease in Black Face,” Sister Outsider

Tressie McMillan Cottom. “How We Make Black Girls Grow Up Too Fast.New York Times, July 29, 2017

Brittney Cooper. “Dark-skinned and plus-sized: The Rachel Jeantel Story.Salon, June 28, 2013.

Wednesday, December 4: Black Women and the Carceral State

Dorothy Roberts. "Complicating the triangle of race, class and state: the insights of black feminists." Ethnic and Racial Studies 37, no. 10 (2014): 1776-1782.

Kali Nicole Gross. "African American women, mass incarceration, and the politics of protection." Journal of American History 102.1 (2015): 25-33.

Alicia Garza. "A herstory of the# blacklivesmatter movement by Alicia Garza." The Feminist Wire 7 (2014).

Christen A. Smith. "Facing the dragon: Black mothering, sequelae, and gendered necropolitics in the Americas." Transforming Anthropology 24.1 (2016): 31-48.

****Final Project Proposal Due Thursday, December 5th by 5:00pm****

Monday, December 9: Black and Trans*

Cece McDonald, “Violence Against (Trans)Women Today”

Janet Mock, “I Was Born a Boy.” Marie Claire. May 2011.

Treva Ellison, Kai Greene, Matt Richardson, and C. Riley Snorton, “We Got Issues:

oward a Black Trans* Studies.” TSQ (2017) 4 (2): 162-169.

Shanté Paradigm Smalls & Elliott H. Powell. “Introduction: An ImPossibility: Black Queer and Trans* Aesthetics.The Black Scholar, 49 (2019):1, 1-5. *Annotate w/Hypothes.is

Wednesday, December 11

Barbara Smith. “Some Home Truths on the Contemporary Black Feminist Movement.”

****Final Project Due Thursday, December 18 th by 5:00pm****