Seminar on Black Feminist Thought

Course Description 

Course Requirements


Required Texts

Other Readings


Summary of Assignments

Appendix A

Appendix A: Getting Started

Appendix A: Posting Due Dates; nuts and bolts

Appendix B: Information on Book Groups and the Individual Book Review

Appendix B: Book Review Article Guide

Appendix C: Statement Regarding Hamilton College’s Educational Goals


Course Description

This course will be an interdisciplinary, multimedia examination and analysis of how Black women across the Diaspora negotiate the intersection of race, gender, sexuality and class. The focus will be on the Afrocentric feminist epistemology and the visionary pragmatism of Black feminist thought. While the central focus will be on Black feminists in the United States, we will read or view works by Black feminists in Britain, Canada, and the Caribbean.

Course Requirements

It is crucial that each student make a commitment to prepare all reading assignments faithfully; this commitment must be undertaken with the understanding that the course is reading intensive and every reading may not be covered in depth. The readings have been chosen to provide different perspectives on an issue or theme. In order to understand the issue or theme as an organic whole it is paramount that each student complete all reading assignments and PARTICIPATE in class discussions. Such participation means LISTENING AND SPEAKING with respect and civility; all discussions will be text-based. More specific requirements are:

  • During the first week of the class, each student will join our course blog which has been established on Each student will post her/his reflections and responses to the blog. These reflections MUST be on an intellectual AND emotional level and will be evaluated accordingly. Please make sure to MAKE A HARD COPY OF YOUR POSTING, because each blog entry will have to go into your course binder. You are greatly encouraged to respond to each other’s postings. If you wish to have me comment on a different reflection than the one posted on the blog, you may write two separate reflections. More details and instructions are in Appendix A.
  • Each student will be assigned to a book group. We can decide on the print text each group will read or I can preselect three titles and randomly assign one group per title. It is the responsibility of each group member to get a copy of their text. Each group will present their book to the class on Wednesday, NOVEMBER 15. In addition, Each group member will write an individual analysis of their book which will be included it their final course binder. See Appendix B for details.
  • Each student will compose an “at-home” analytical essay on how course readings, films, musical selections, blog postings, or any combination of the above helped you come to different (I hope higher) level of consciousness about Black Feminism. You should discuss frankly areas where you accepted or resisted the information presented, and how well you participated in class interactions and discussions. The MINIMUM length of the essay is ten pages. This essay will be submitted in the course binder (see next item.)
  • Each student will keep a Course binder in which s/he will keep hard copies of blog responses to the readings and class discussions; and weekly reflections on posts from the blog of her/his choice . You will be graded weekly on both these components and late postings to our blog as well as late reflection papers will be penalized. To avoid penalty, postings must be made to the blog by 12:00N on the Friday of the week when the reading assignment is due, with one exception. See Appendix A for dates. The final component of the course binder will be analytical essay described in the previous bullet.


Each student will turn in a course binder that will include: the course blog postings; feminist blog post reflections;, and your analytical essay. This binder will account for 80% of your final grade; class participation (including the course blog) will account for the remaining 20%. The binder is due 5:00 PM Wednesday, December 13, 2017.

Required Texts

Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower (Warner Books)

Melissa Harris-Perry, Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America (Yale U P) (SC)

Tamara Winfrey Harris, The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.) (SAA)

Janet Mock, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More (Atria) (RR)

 Tricia Rose, Longing to Tell: Black Women’s Stories of Sexuality and Intimacy (Picador) (Longing)

Deborah Gray White, Too Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894-1994 (Norton) (THAL)

Other Readings:

All other readings are available on Blackboard. I may provide a hard copy of these readings but in case I cannot, please bring a hard copy of these readings to class for our discussions.


Date Topic Assignment
Week 1
August 30
Introductions; What is Black Feminist Thought? Thought or Theory? Feminist or Womanist? LISTENING: “Ain’t Nothing But A She Thang”, Salt-N-Pepa; Beyoncé, “Flawless”; “Someone Else’s Eyes”, Aretha Franklin
READING: (BlackBoard: assignment sent ahead via e-mail) “Combahee River Collective”; Annette Henry, “A Wha’ Dem A Go On Wid?”; Jackie Kay, “So You Think I’m A Mule?”; Alice Walker, “Womanist”; Adrien Katherine Wing, “Introduction” (to Critical Race Feminism: A Reader, hereafter, CRF)
Presumed Incompetent (PI): Kupenda, “Facing Down…” 20-28
VIDEO: Crystal Valentine, “Black Privilege”
Week 2
September 06
Framing the Thought READING:
Harris-Perry, SC, Introduction INCLUDING “The Hurricane”
BLACKBOARD: PI: Shields, “Waking Up…” 29-39
LISTENING: Dionne Farris, “Human”
VIDEO: “A Place of Rage”
Week 3
September 13
Identities: Historical READING:
THAL, Introduction, Chapters 1-3
Angelou, “And Still I Rise”;
CRF#4, Cleaver “Racism…; #7, Vandervelde and Subramanian, “Mrs. Dred Scott”
Week 4
September 20
Identities: Historical READING: THAL, Chapters 4-Epilogue
Week 5
September 27
Identities: Historical READING:
Reagon, “Coalition Politics…”; White, “Black Feminist Interventions”; Finney, “Red
IN CLASS: Brand, “Water More Than Flour” (handed out in class)
VIDEO: “And Still I Rise”
Week 6
October 04
Identities: Political READING:
Harris-Perry, SC: “The Bridge Poem”—Chapter 4
BLACKBOARD CRF: #13, Post, “The Politics”; PI: Lugo-Lugo, “A Prostitute, A Servant,” 40-49
Week 7
October 11
Motherhood READING:
CRF #18, “Perry, “Transracial Adoption…”;
Woodson, “Motherhood, My Way”
Lindsley, “Bearing the Blame” from The Fire This Time
VIDEO: “Lackawanna Blues”
Week 8
October 18
Beauty Culture READING:
Harris-Perry, SC: “No Mirrors in My Nana’s House”—Chapter 7
CRF: #31, Caldwell, “A Hair Piece”
Janell Hobson, “The Batty Politic…”
VIDEO “Lockin’ Up”
Week 9
October 25
Identities: Artistic READING:
BLACKBOARD: Hazel Carby, “It Jus Be’s Dat Way Sometime”; Alice Walker, “1955”; Angela Davis, “Mama’s Got the Blues” from Blues Legacies and Black Feminism
LISTENING: Big Mama Thornton, Mean Mothers
Week 10
November 01
Identities: Sexual READING:
Rose, Longing, (Whole Book)
Week 11
November 08
Identities: Sexual READING:
Mock, Redefining Realness (ALL)
BLACKBOARD: Birtha, “In the Life”
VIDEO: “Butch Mystique”
Week 12
November 15
Book Groups Discussion
November 17-November 26 ThanksGiving Break No class READING: Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower
Week 13
November 29
The Future READING:
Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower
Week 14: December 06 Black Feminist Legacy READING:
Harris, The Sisters Are Alright
Discussion of final essays

Binders are due 5:00 PM Wednesday, December 13, 2017.

Summary of Assignments

  1. Every week at the beginning of class on Wednesdays: submit 1-2 page reflection on a post from the feminist blog chosen from the options listed on page 2 of the syllabus.
  2. Every week at 12N on Fridays*: post reflections on the reading and class discussion to our course blog, Black Feminist Thoughts; see instructions and dates in Appendix A.
  3. Hard copies of all reflections and posts MUST be submitted in the final binder for the course.
  4. Analysis of your book group selection to be submitted in the final binder for the course.
  5. Final essay: 10 page MINIMUM. This is to be submitted as part of final binder. More details are on page 2 of the syllabus.
  6. Final, complete binders are due 5:00 PM Wednesday, December 13, 2017.

*Friday October 13 is part of fall break; your posting will be due at 9:00 AM MONDAY, October 16.

Appendix A

Black Feminist Thoughts Blog

Below are detailed instructions for how to get established on our course blog Black Feminist Thoughts. Once you are all set up PLEASE bookmark this site. You will be posting once a week so you will want to have easy access to the site.

We have a technical adviser for our blog. If you have any technical difficulties please send an email to our adviser AND be sure to copy me on all correspondence so I am aware of your issues.

Technical Adviser and Consultant:

Caitlin Pollock, MSLIS, MA (Digital Humanities)

She will be available via email Monday thru Friday. Emails received between 9am and 5pm will be responded to the same day.

Getting Started

  1. Inform me of the email address you wish to use for the blog. If you already have an account with and wish to have our blog affiliated with that or if you do NOT want to use your address, PLEASE INFORM ME IMMEDIATELY OF THE ADDRESS YOU WISH TO USE. I will use this to add you to the blog.
  2. The URL for the blog is ; the username will be your email address or a username of your choice. As this blog is public-facing, make sure your username is something you would not be embarrassed by if Professor Haley or, say, a potential employer, were to see it.

Posting Due Dates; nuts and bolts:

  1. The purpose of the blog is for each student to reflect on the readings and class discussion/activities for each week of the semester. This is a space for your voice; please feel free to express yourself in any medium or language with which you are most comfortable: art, poetry, music or good old-fashioned prose, are all welcome. Haitian, Spanglish, Spanish, American English, British English, etc are also welcome.
  1. This blog is a reflection of our community of feminist scholars. While I do fervently desire that this blog be a safe space where raw emotion can be expressed, we all need to be respectful of one another and one another’s experiences. So be mindful that too many “f-words” can be overwhelming for others. Please be aware that this blog is public-facing and is discoverable. Your posts should be well-thought out and, if appropriate, correctly cited. If you embed media, such as sound recordings, video, or images, make sure they are appropriately cited with correct attribution whenever possible.
  1. You must post AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK—you may post more often but I will only assess the posts submitted by the due date. Again these should be reflections on the readings and class discussion/activities for each week of the semester. Because that is the case, I am asking you to post by the Friday (@12Noon) FOLLOWING OUR WEDNESDAY SEMINAR MEETING. I encourage you to post as soon after class as possible so you do not forget.
    1. The blog has the comments enabled and I encourage you to respectfully comment on your classmates’ posts to facilitate discussion.
    2. The blog accepts comments from all users, which means the audience is broader than just our class. Therefore, if you wish to post something personal or sensitive which you do NOT want the wider WordPress community to read or comment upon, please make your post password-protected. All password-protected posts will use the same password.
    3. Posting Dates:
Week Class Meeting Post Due Date
1 W 8.30 FRIDAY 9.01**
2 W 9.06 FRIDAY 9.08
3 W 9.13 FRIDAY 9.15
4 W 9.20 FRIDAY 9.22
5 W 9.27 FRIDAY 9.29
6 W 10.04 FRIDAY 10.06
7 W 10.11 MONDAY 10.16***
8 W 10.18 FRIDAY 10.20
9 W 10.25 FRIDAY 10.27
10 W 11.01 FRIDAY 11.03
11 W 11.08 FRIDAY 11.10
12 W 11.15 FRIDAY 11.17
13 W 11.29 FRIDAY 12.01
14 W 12.06 FRIDAY 12.08

** You must become established as a user on the blog AND post by this date. You will have had an assignment emailed to you ahead our first class.


5.Try to remember to make a hard copy of your blog post to put into your course binder. You MUST have copies of your postings in your binder.

6. Once again, if you have any technical difficulties, please contact our technical adviser/consultant:

Caitlin Pollock, MSLIS, MA (Digital Humanities)

(Please note well: Caitlin is NOT at Hamilton College!)

  1. HAVE FUN!

Appendix B: Information on Book Groups and the Individual Book Review

1. Each student will be in a Book Discussion group consisting of four or five people, depending on the size of the class.

2. Each Reading Group should have discussions among themselves about their texts. I can establish groups on Black Board for this purpose. Ideally, these discussions should begin before you are swamped with other coursework and athletic obligations.

3. The titles to be covered will be selected as a class or preselected by me.
Each Group member is responsible for obtaining her/his own copy of whatever text the group is reading. Please note: these ARE NOT available in the College bookstore as part of the text order for this course.

4. Each group will present their book to the whole class on Wednesday, NOVEMBER 15, during class.

5. Each individual group member will write a review of the book under discussion. There is to be NO collaboration on these books reviews. Reviews must follow the guidelines provided on the next page. Nota Bene: A book review is NOT a book report.

6. Book Reviews are to be included in the course binder due Wednesday, December 13, 2017 at 12N.

Appendix B: Book Review Article Guide

The first line of your Report should give the bibliographic information about the book in the following format:

Author’s First Name Author’s Last Name. Title. Place: Publisher, Year. Number of Pages, including number of illustrations, figures or plates.

(Example: Tracy Denean Sharpley-Whiting. Black Venus: Sexualized Savages, Primal Fears, and Primitive Narratives in French. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999. Pp. xii, 190; 5 illustrations.)

Body of the Report:

  1. Give a brief statement of the author’s thesis, if the work is nonfiction or a synopsis of the plot, if it is fiction.
    1. Give a VERY BRIEF summary of the book’s content.
  1.  How well did the author do what she set out to do? How well did she support her thesis? This question is best answered by evaluating the author’s bibliography, where applicable. If there were illustrations, were these well placed and used effectively as support?
    1. Was the language accessible? That is, did you understand it? Give direct quotes from the book.
    2. Did the book employ intersectionality theory? If so, how? If not, what voices were excluded?
    3. For what audience was the book intended?
    4. Would you look for other works by this author?.
  1. Helpful Hints: Stay away from general “I” statements. E.g.: “I didn’t like this book because it was boring.” “I thought the author was a jerk.”

Appendix C: Statement Regarding Hamilton College’s Educational Goals

The objectives of this course are set out under the “Course Description” section of the syllabus on page 1. The purpose of this statement is to explain how the course aligns with the educational goals of Hamilton. Hamilton lays out several educational goals, and while this course touches upon all of them, I draw your attention to the following:

Intellectual Curiosity and Flexibility:
Black women’s intellectual and cultural production in the United States has been pushed to the margins. In this course, we will focus on how Black women navigate and subvert the master narrative which oppresses everyone. We will examine several kinds of evidence, including literary, historical, autobiographical and musical. Using critical thinking skills and critical race feminist theory ( more commonly referred to as intersectionality), to understand Black women’s intellectual and cultural production in the United States, we will move Black women, to borrow a title of bell hooks, “from the margins to the center.”

Disciplinary Practice:
Students will put multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary methodologies into practice. These methodologies are central to the three fields represented by this course: Africana Studies, American Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Aesthetic Discernment:
Black women’s cultural production is by definition rooted in political, artisitic and intellectual domains. We will analyze how Black women’s artistic and intellectual endeavors embody their experiences in the United States.

Communication and Expression:
This course will introduce you to the scholarly discourse of Black women’s studies by means of a book group, book review and analytic essay on your own progress. Different modes of expression, especially of emotional knowledge, will be employed .

Understanding Cultural Diversity:
We will gain a deeper understanding of the implicit biases and assumptions of mainstream, Eurocentric and often white nationalist approaches to Black women’s lives, history and experiences. We will examine how these biases distort and skew our understanding of Black women.

Ethical, Informed and Engaged Citizenship:
By focusing our attention on Black women’s experiences, we will “develop an awareness of the challenges and responsibilties of local, national and global citizenship.” By recentering Black women, we will be contributing to “informed judgement in accordance with just principles.”