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Black Womanhood: The Syllabus

I’m super excited to share a draft of the syllabus for Black Womanhood, the course I’m teaching with Martha Jones this spring! See below for the list of readings and feel free to tweet at us (@jmjafrx and @marthasjones_) if you decide to read alongside us. We would love to hear from you.

If you decide to adapt the syllabus in any way for yourself, keep in mind this blog is protected by a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License. The details of the license are explained here.

If your use abides by those guidelines–Awesome! Then we ask that you please cite us on your syllabus materials, analog and digital, like so: “This syllabus was adapted from the syllabus “Black Womanhood,” designed by Jessica Marie Johnson and Martha S. Jones, first taught Spring 2018 at Johns Hopkins University.”

Black womanhood readings with bonus images after the jump. Enjoy.

Black Womanhood (AS.100.713.01)
A course designed by Jessica Marie Johnson and Martha S. Jones

Version: Spring 2017, Johns Hopkins University

Course description: What does a usable history of black womanhood (black queer and trans womanhood inclusive) look like? Black women’s history across time and space.

The BunnFunn Collection From the Series: “Collage” I ~ Piece o Dat Hat (c) 2017 #inhonorofthosepassedsavetheirhatsnthingsbringthemtobeingthruyou Photographer: @ambeargray (c) 2017 Lady BunnFunn: Introducing Mademoiselle Mila

January 31. Week 1. Black Womanhood.

Saidiya Hartman, “Venus in Two Acts,” Small Axe 12, no. 2 (June 2008): 1-14.

Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley. “Black Atlantic, Queer Atlantic: Queer Imaginings of the Middle Passage.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 14, no.2 (2008): 191–215.

Jennifer L. Morgan, “Some Could Suckle over Their Shoulder”: Male Travelers, Female Bodies, and the Gendering of Racial Ideology, 1500-1770,” William and Mary Quarterly 54, no. 1 (January 1997), 167-192.

Hortense J. Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book,” Diacritics 17, no. 2 (Summer 1987): 64-81.

February 7. Week 2. Middle Passages.

Sowande’ M. Mustakeem, Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage (University of Illinois Press, 2016.)

Barbara Bush, “‘Daughters of Injur’d Africk’: African Women and the Transatlantic Slave Trade,” Women’s History Review 17, no. 5 (December 2008): 673-698.

Rhoda E. Reddock. “Women and Slavery in the Caribbean: A Feminist Perspective.” Latin American Perspectives 12, no.1 (1985): 63–80.


Online Roundtable: Sowande’ Mustakeem’s Slavery at Sea. AAIHS: Black Perspectives.

Photographer: Kwesi Abbensetts Model #quiarala Stylist @zubeyda_blossom Summer 2014

February 14. Week 3 – The Archives.

Marisa J. Fuentes, Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive (University of Pennsylvania Press 2016.)

Rebecca J. Scott and Jean Michel Hébrard, Freedom Papers: An Atlantic Odyssey in the Age of Emancipation (Harvard University Press 2013.)

Riley Snorton, Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity, 1 edition (Minneapolis: Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2017), Introduction.


Kathleen M. Brown, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia (Omohundro Institute and University of North Carolina Press 1996.)

February 21. Week 4. Black Femmescapes.

Janea Kelly, poet & contributor femmescapes (Click for more)

Emily Clark, The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World (University of North Carolina Press 2013.)

Joan (Colin) Dayan, “Erzulie: A Women’s HIstory of Haiti,” Research in African Literatures 25, no. 2 (Summer 1994): 5-31.

Charles Theonia and Julieta Salgado, eds. Femmescapes, Volume 2.


Lydia Maria Francis Child, “The Quadroons,” in Fact and Fiction: A Collection of Stories (New York: C.S. Francis, 1847.)

Hilary Jones, The Metis of Senegal: Urban Life and Politics in French West Africa (Indiana University Press 2013.)

February 28. Week 5. Power and Precarity.

Dionne Brand, “San Souci,” in Sans Souci and Other Stories (Firebrand 1989).

Thavolia Glymph, Out of the House of Bondage: The Formation of the Plantation Household (Cambridge University Press 2008.)

Harriet Jacobs (Linda Brent,) Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Written by Herself (For the Author 1861.) On line:

Akuol de Mabior modeling Thom Brown (S/S ’14). Photographed by Lea Colombo.


Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman. “The Strangest Freaks of Despotism”: Queer Sexuality in Antebellum African American Slave Narratives.” African American Review 40, no.2 (2006): 223–37.

March 7th. Week 6. Tera Hunter.

Tera Hunter, To ‘Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors After the Civil War (Harvard 1997.)

Tera Hunter, Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century (Harvard University Press 2017.)

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, The Case for National Action: The Negro Family (Department of Labor 1965.)

March 8-9: Black Marriage Symposium

Register here:

March 9: Love and Marriage in Slavery’s Archive: A Workshop with Tera Hunter (co-sponsored by the Sex and Slavery Lab)

Required. Register:

March 14. Week 7. The Field.

Field Trip – TBA

March 28. Week 8. Motherhoods.

Protest against the statue of J. Marion Sims outside the New York Academy of Medicine on August 19, 2017. Their statement: “J. Marion Sims was a gynecologist in the 1800s who purchased Black women slaves and used them as guinea pigs for his untested surgical experiments. He repeatedly performed genital surgery on Black women WITHOUT ANESTHESIA because according to him, “Black women don’t feel pain.” Despite his inhumane tests on Black women, Sims was named “the father of modern gynecology”, and his statue currently stands right outside of the New York Academy of Medicine.” #FightSupremacy

Sasha Turner, Contested Bodies: Pregnancy, Childrearing and Slavery in Jamaica (University of Pennsylvania Press 2017.)

Nicole Ivy. “Bodies of Work: A Meditation on Medical Imaginaries and Enslaved Women.” Souls 18(2016): 11–31.

Brenda E. Stevenson. “The Question of the Slave Female Community and Culture in the American South: Methodological and Ideological Approaches.” Journal of African American History (2007): 74–95.


Saidiya Hartman. “The Belly of the World: A Note on Black Women’s Labors.” Souls 18, no.1 (2016): 166–73.

April 4. Week 9. Resistance.

Aisha K. Finch, Rethinking Slave Rebellion in Cuba: La Escalera and the Insurgencies of 1841-1844 (University of North Carolina Press 2016.)

Natasha Lightfoot, “‘Their Coats Were Tied Up Like Men’: Women Rebels in Antigua’s 1858 Uprising,” Slavery & Abolition 31, no. 4 (December 2010): 527-545.

Elsa Barkley Brown. “Negotiating and Transforming the Public Sphere: African American Political Life in the Transition From Slavery to Freedom.” Public Culture 7, no.1 (1994): 107–46.


Thavolia Glymph, “Rose’s War and the Gendered Politics of a Slave Insurgency in the Civil War,” Journal of the Civil War Era 3, no. 4 (December 2013): 501-532.

Kara Walker, Crest of Pine Mountain, Where General Polk Fell from Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated) (detail), 2005

April 11. Week 10. Rememory.

Juneteenth day celebration in Texas. 1900. via The National Museum of African American History

Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Balm: A Novel (Amistad 2016.)

Rae Paris, Forgetting Tree: A Rememory (Wayne State University Press 2017.)

April 18. Week 11. Carcerality.

Talitha LeFlouria, Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South (University of North Carolina 2015.)

Katherine McKittrick, “Plantation Futures,” Small Axe 17, no. 3 (2013): 1-15.

April 25. Week 12. “The Black Woman.”

Professor Leslie Brown speaking in Sept. 2014 about the shooting of Michael Brown (Credit: The Williams Record)

Brittney C. Cooper, Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women (University of Illinois Press 2017.)

Treva B. Lindsey, Colored No More: Reinventing Black Womanhood in Washington, DC (University of Illinois Press 2017.)

Hallie Q. Brown, Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction (Adeline Publishing 1926.) On line:

Leslie Brown. “How a Hundred Years of History Tracked Me Down,” In Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower, edited by Deborah Gray White (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008.)

May 2. Week 13. Endings. New Beginnings.

Sarah J. Jackson, Moya Bailey, Brooke Foucault Welles, “#GirlsLikeUs: Trans Advocacy and Community Building Online,” New Media & Society (June 2017).

I’Nasah Crockett, ““Raving Amazons”: Antiblackness and Misogynoir in Social Media.” Modelview Culture. On line:

Alicia Garza, “A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement by Alicia Garza,” The Feminist Wire (blog), October 7, 2014. On line:


  1. Kim Kim January 28, 2018


  2. Musomi Kimanthi Musomi Kimanthi January 28, 2018

    Don’t know if she has been considered and I know they can’t include everybody but I think this story could be part of their teaching;…/kimpa-vita-dona-beatriz-1684…/

  3. Trisha Basler Trisha Basler January 28, 2018

    Since I can’t afford or qualify to go to Johns Hopkins this is a wonderful asset. Thank you so much!

    Honorary credit?

  4. Christine Christine January 28, 2018

    It’s not forward thinking enough. Where are the contributors hidden from history?

  5. Luana Luana January 29, 2018

    What a wonderful syllabus for your “Black Womanhood” class! Great content and I had not thought to publish my syllabus in such a way. I teach a course called “Black Traditions in American Dance.” For the fall semester class I will do the same, I usually use Canvas or Moodle but I love the elegance of your site and the availability to those outside the course. I love how it democratized the information, and how you allowed/schooled others to reference. I just finished a book in which you might have tangential interest. “What Makes That Black? The African American Aesthetic in American Expressive Culture.” Here is the web address:

  6. Marilyn Marilyn January 30, 2018

    I love Luana’s comment!

  7. Claude Grimes Claude Grimes February 2, 2018

    This is awesome

  8. V Dani V Dani February 5, 2018

    So timely and powerful. Thank you for this labor of love!!’

  9. REgine REgine February 5, 2018

    Fabulous!!! I would add two great movie directors Irene Zeinabu for Compensation and Julie Dash for Daughters of the Dust…

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