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Decoding Images of the Revolutionary Black Woman

By Lakesia D. Johnson

Publication Year: 2012

Angela Davis, Pam Grier, Alice Walker, Michelle Obama. Revolutionary black women have evoked strong reaction throughout American history. Magazines, political campaigns, music, television, and movies have relied upon deep-seated archetypes and habitually cast strong, countercultural black women as mammies and sexual objects. In Iconic Lakesia Johnson explores how this belittling imagery is imposed by American media, revealing an immense cultural fear of black women's power and potential.

But the media does not have the last word. Johnson chronicles how strong black women—truly revolutionary black women—have nonetheless taken control of their own imaging despite consistent negative characterizations. Through their speech, demeanor, fashion, and social relationships, women from Sojourner Truth to Michelle Obama have counteracted these depictions. With ingenuity, fortitude, and focus on the greater good, these revolutionary women transformed the cultural images of themselves and, simultaneously, those of American black women as a whole.

Seamlessly weaving together role models of past and present, from women in politics to artists and musicians, Johnson eloquently demonstrates how the revolutionary black woman in many public forums has been—and continues to be—a central figure in challenging long-standing social injustices.

For more, including photographs, videos, news, and author appearances, visit RevoutionaryBlackWomen.com.

Published by: Baylor University Press


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pp. 1-1

Half Title Page, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-x

First and foremost, I want to acknowledge my mother, Jerrie L. Hatten, for always believing that I could do great things, even when I was clinging to life as a preemie and the doctors had given up hope. Thank you for your strength, tenacity, persistence, and refusal to let anyone block your success or the success of your children. ...

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1. The Myth of the Angry Black Woman: From Sojourner Truth to Michelle Obama

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pp. 1-13

On October 8, 2008, Larry King interviewed Mrs. Michelle Obama. The interview took place after her husband, Barack Obama, had secured the Democratic nomination for president and was in the midst of a very nasty campaign waged by Republican nominee John McCain. After showing a clip from the most recent ...

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2. Revolutionary Black Women in The News: The Politics of Angela Davis and Kathleen Cleaver

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pp. 15-44

Anger. Afro. Avenger. These words capture three characteristics that are often associated with the popular image of the revolutionary black woman. She is angry about injustices that have been committed, and she is not afraid to speak truth to power and to stand with other African Americans in the fight for social justice.1 ...

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3. Revolutionary Black Women in Film: Blaxploitation and the Legacy of Pam Grier

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pp. 45-65

Stereotypical images of revolutionary black women became more accessible through the characters in blaxploitation films. The black female heroine in blaxploitation films served as a way to make “real” revolutionary women more palatable to the masses. Just as the sexual objectification of Angela Davis served to contain the threat that she posed as a strong, powerful ...

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4. Revolutionary Black Women in Literature: The Narratives of Alice Walker and Audre Lorde

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pp. 67-85

In June 1982, Ebony featured an article by Bebe Moore Campbell that asked the question, what happened to the Afro?1 Campbell chronicles the shift from popular culture saturated with images of black men and women wearing this natural hairstyle to one where large numbers of African American women were ...

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5. Revolutionary Black Women and Music: The Hip-Hop Feminism of Erykah Badu and Me’shell Ndegéocello

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pp. 87-106

Images of black revolutionary womanhood that emerged in the literature of black feminists Alice Walker and Audre Lorde were an important part of bridging the gap between black feminist politics in the seventies and the work in the early nineties of African American female artists who were part of the emerging genres of rap, hip-hop and neo-soul.1 ...

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6. The Many Images of the Revolutionary Black Woman: Michelle Obama Reconsidered

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pp. 107-128

America’s first lady, Mrs. Michelle Obama, the most prominent woman in the country, has double roles to negotiate. She is responsible for the usual duties incumbent upon the first lady, but because of her race, she also must contend with and react to the stereotypical images of strong black women. ...


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pp. 129-148


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pp. 149-161


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pp. 151-166


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pp. 167-173

E-ISBN-13: 9781481300476
E-ISBN-10: 1481300474
Print-ISBN-13: 9781602586444
Print-ISBN-10: 1602586446

Page Count: 183
Illustrations: 28 b/w images
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 868219475
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Iconic