Rest in Power: R. Dianne Bartlow, Emmy-Winning Producer and Director

R. Dianne Bartlow was a professor at California State University Northridge and an Emmy-winning director, writer and producer. (Courtesy)

The Ms. community, family, friends and colleagues said goodbye last weekend to R. Dianne Bartlow—professor, scholar, feminist writer, Emmy-winning producer and director. She’s left too soon, at the age of 67 after a short battle with lung cancer.

I met Dianne in the first decade of the 2000s. We dutifully attended annual National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) conferences, which we hoped would live up our mutual vision of a multiracial feminist academic community. We eventually witnessed significant change to the organization in our second decade of attendance, when it became more focused on the intersectional and transnational feminist work that defined our interdisciplinary field. Both Dianne and I contributed to this focus when we partnered in 2008 to guest co-edit a special issue, “Representin’: Women, Hip-Hop, and Popular Music,” with the peer-reviewed academic journal Meridians: feminisms, race and transnationalism.

Together, we assembled some of the most transformative work by scholars like Daphne Brooks, Mireille Miller-Young, Andreana Clay and Whitney Peoples among others. These writings subsequently influenced the subfields of hip-hop feminism, “Beyoncé Studies” and feminist music studies. Outside of our academic work, we remained friends who often became “hotel roomies” at NWSA. We also became regular contributing writers to Ms., and members of its scholars committee.

Overall, I remember Dianne for her easygoing temperament and her patience. She was always agreeable and empathetic—qualities her students praised. During her more than 20-year career at California State University, Northridge, Dianne taught in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, which she later chaired.

Dianne was humble and down-to-earth, which is why I was surprised to learn of her accomplishments as an award-winning television writer-producer. Her first Emmy nomination was for a local special, Capitol Records: The Inside Track, in 1985. She won an Emmy in 1993 for her Pioneering Women program. In 1997 she won again for A Community for Caring Meals on Wheels.

R. Dianne Bartlow received three Emmys during her career. (Courtesy)

Dianne’s documentary, Wings Over Jordan, We Remember, which is archived in the Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, explores the history of the African American singing group Wings of Jordan, the first gospel singers to become Ambassadors of Goodwill for the United States while raising the morale of men and women fighting during World War II. She also freelanced for CBS/KCBS Television, Lifetime, Entertainment Tonight and the Oprah Winfrey Show. Dianne earned her last Emmy for writing and directing Bread and Roses Café (2014). 

As an active member of the Directors Guild of America—including serving on the Women’s and African American Steering Committees—Dianne often brought a Black feminist sense to her television projects. This same sensibility shaped her work as a professor and scholar at California State University.

Her articles with Ms. brought attention to survivors of domestic violence seeking justice despite rigged family courts. She also wrote a shining a spotlight piece on Vice President Kamala Harris in a series on “feminists in office.”

Dianne Bartlow is survived by two daughters, Jade and Jasmin, their partners and children, as well as siblings and other family, friends, colleagues and countless students. She will be greatly missed.


Janell Hobson is professor of women's, gender and sexuality studies at the University at Albany. She is the author of When God Lost Her Tongue: Historical Consciousness and the Black Feminist Imagination. She is also the editor of Tubman 200: The Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Project.