Hollywood’s Black Herstory: Have Roles for Black Women Evolved in the Past 73 Years?


As Oscar weekend approaches, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are the favorites, respectively, to win this year’s Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress awards. Having two black women poised to sweep the actress Oscars might seem like progress for Hollywood–but here’s the irony: The parts they are nominated for, from the box-office hit The Help, are […]

Black Herstory: Haunted By Margaret Garner


On February 18–which is the 81st birthday of Toni Morrison–let’s also remember Margaret Garner, a slave woman whose herstory was memorialized in what is often considered Morrison’s greatest work: the 1988 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved, later made into a film produced by and starring Oprah Winfrey. Morrison, the author of nine novels (with a tenth, Home, […]

Black Herstory: Whitney Houston’s Vocal Legacy

Whitney Houston

In the midst of my sadness upon learning of Whitney Houston’s untimely death, I tuned into the Grammy Awards show this past Sunday, curious about the planned tribute to one of the greatest voices in the modern pop music era. However, instead of being uplifted with memories of Houston’s glory days, I felt worse. There […]

Black Herstory: The Founders of the Feminist Party


It never ceases to amaze me how many students in my women’s studies classes have never heard the names Flo Kennedy, Pauli Murray and Shirley Chisholm (left), all black women. Yet they “might have heard” of Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique and a white woman, thus suggesting that black feminists have been written out […]

Black Herstory: Jamaica’s Other National Hero


On this day, the late Bob Marley would have turned 67 years old. In honor of the “soul rebel” who encouraged Jamaicans and the rest of the world to embrace a black consciousness and support liberation struggles, I invoke the memory of another Jamaican hero for our Black “Herstory” Month series: the fierce fugitive slave […]

My Problem with “Slave Rape,” or Why I Love the Story of Sukie

sukie do lord remember me slave rape

Early in the new year, a black woman student at my university invited me to guest lecture for a special Black History Month event that would highlight the history of black women. My heart leaped. “I would be delighted to participate,” I said. “What would you like me to discuss?” She was very specific: She […]

Black Herstory Month Begins Today!


Several Februaries ago, I stumbled across a Black History Month TV series highlighting famous black people of history. To my dismay, the episodes almost exclusively profiled black men. The one exception was Sally Hemings, whose claim to fame was being Thomas Jefferson’s “mistress.” The choice of Hemings alone seemed to imply that a black woman can […]

End of the World, Or End of Patriarchy?


From Independence Day to Armageddon to 2012 to Legion, movies have certainly mastered the art of fetishizing the end of the world in glorious special-effects fashion. However, 2011 marks a turning point in which we can now view such destructive spectacles not just in Hollywood blockbusters but in art-house and indie-film fare. Terrence Malick’s visually exquisite The Tree of […]

Gaming: Tool of Pedagogy or Oppression?

Slavery the game

Last month, a trailer for a new video game, Slavery the Game, was released on YouTube and instantly went viral. It also elicited worldwide outrage and indignation, as well as racially abusive rhetoric in the YouTube comments section from those who must have eagerly awaited a game that invites players to take on the roles […]

Should Black Women Oppose the SlutWalk?


An Open Letter from Black Women to the SlutWalk, signed by a hefty list of black anti-violence activists, scholars and community leaders, has been stirring conversation online since it was posted on Friday. Like previous Black feminist critiques of SlutWalk, the letter calls into question the anti-rape march’s reclamation of the word slut. The authors […]