Singing a Black Girl’s Song: Black Girlhood Studies

Instructor: Andrea Y. Adomako                       T/Th 11:00-12:15pm                                

Course Description: This seminar explores the theories, methods, and analytical approaches in the emerging field of Black girlhood studies. Students will engage with Black girlhood as a political category while interrogating the development of Black Girlhood Studies, the categories of “girl” and “woman” and representations of Black girlhood in both academic literature and popular culture. Themes explored in this course include but are not limited to: sexuality, education, survival, criminalization, and hip-hop. Working within, and perhaps beyond, Black feminist frameworks our collective goal is to make sense of and unpack the ever expanding concept of Black girlhood.

Guiding Questions:

  • What is Black girlhood?
  • What is Black Girlhood Studies?
  • What is the relationship between Black Girlhood Studies and Black Feminism?
  • What are the sociopolitical implications for Black girlhood?
  • How do we account for the lived experiences of Black girls both locally and globally?

Course Objectives:

  • Identify the major themes and issues prompted by the concept of Black girlhood
  • Identify the contributions of Black girlhood studies’ scholars
  • Understand how historical/structural/institutional forces play a role in the lives of Black girls historically and presently
  • Develop a clearer understanding of the emerging theories and methodologies of Black Girlhood Studies

Required Books:

(Online or pdf versions will be made available)

  • Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins
  • Hear Our Truths: The Creative Potential of Black Girlhood by Ruth Nicole Brown
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange
  • Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood by bell hooks
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Black Girlhood in the Nineteenth Century by Nazera Sadiq Wright
  • Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval by Saidiya Hartman


This course requires students to read across a variety of interesting and complex texts and requires attendance to all classes to work through the material as a collective. If you must miss class due to external circumstances it is my expectation that you will communicate that with me in a timely fashion and follow up with classmates about the discussion you missed.

You are allowed 2 unexcused absences during the term. Each unexcused absence after will result in a 2 point reduction from your final grade average. That is, if your final grades average to a 92, you will receive a 90 after 2 unexcused absences. An excused absence means you provide me some written documentation to explain your absence. Again, attendance is critical to your success in the class!

Course Expectations and Requirements:

  • Participation: 25%
  • Class Discussion Leading: 15%
  • Midterm: 20%
  • Final: 30%
  • Final Presentations: 10%

Class Discussion Leading:

  • Students will be encouraged to take responsibility for class discussion. Each week (starting at week 2), class discussion will be lead by 2 students who will make 15-minute presentations on the texts for that day. The goal is for students to present their ideas to the class by identifying themes across the texts. Think about how the texts speak to one another, how they may present tensions, or complement one another. Students should generate a 3-5 provocative questions to kick off the class discussion. Questions should be posted on Canvas by 9am the day of class. Students will facilitate twice over the semester and your discussion grade will be the average of the two presentations.


  • Book and film reviews should be 3-5 pages. The purpose of the review is to write a concise but comprehensive evaluation of the book. Do no merely summarize the content of the book or film, but situate it in the context of the class material and evaluate the themes and characters. The bulk of this review should be an analytical commentary on the pieces contribution to one’s understanding of Black girlhood. Due week 6, October 26 at 9pm. Options for the midterm are:
    • For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf  by Ntozake Shange
    • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
    • The Fits film
    • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
    • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

 Final: Due December 16th at 9pm

  • Zine and Critical Essay (10-12pgs)
    • The zine is an opportunity to craft a self-published collection of text and visuals made by physically cutting and pasting elements together in an 8-10 page booklet. The zine, while personal, should focus on the themes for the quarter as it relates to Black girlhood. You do not have to focus on all of the themes, but rather pick ones that inspire you and you feel can be represented. In addition to the zine, you will craft a critical essay that explains the choices that animated your zine. What themes did you pick and why? How did the readings influence your zines? What is the relationship between zines and the methods of Black girlhood studies? The critical essay should be 10-12 pages. You must consult with me on your theme/themes for the zine by week 8. 
  • Interview/Oral History and Analysis (12-15pgs)
    • This paper will explore someone else’s experience of Black girlhood. The purpose of the paper is to use the lived experience of someone else’s Black girlhood and put it in conversation with the works from the semester. You will develop a set of 5-7 interview questions that must be approved by me, by week 8. Interview and essay combined should be 12-15 pages.
  • Research Paper (12-15pgs)
    • Research paper. Choose a topic that pertains to the course material and write a 12-15 pg research paper. It is expected that you utilize at least 3 outside resources in addition to 5 from class to write the paper. You must consult with me on the topic you choose by week 8. 

Reading Schedule:

Week 1: Introductions

September 5

  • Class Introductions

September 7

Week 2: The Field of Black Girlhood Studies

September 12

  • “10 Years of Black Girlhood Celebration A Pedagogy of Doing” by Chamara Jewel Kwakye, Dominique C. Hill, Durell M. Callier
  • “The History of Black Girlhood: Recent Innovations and Future Directions” by Corinne T. Field, Tammy-Charelle Owens, Marcia Chatelain, Lakisha Simmons, Abosede George, Rhian Keyse

September 14

  •  “Blackgirl, One Word: Necessary Transgressions in the Name of Imagining Black Girlhood” by Dominique C. Hill
  • “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood” by Rebecca Epstein, Jamila Blake, and Thalia Gonzalez

Week 3: The Field of Black Girlhood Studies

September 19

  • Hear Our Truths: The Creative Potential of Black Girlhood by Ruth Nicole Brown

September 21

  • “Towards an Interdisciplinary Field of Black Girlhood Studies” by Tammy C. Owens, Durell M. Callier, Jessica L. Robinson, and Proshe R. Garner
  • “Here’s My Problem with #Blackgirlmagic” by Linda Chavers

Week 4: Black Girlhood: A Black Feminist Project…?

September 26

  • “Womanism” by Alice Walker
  • Black Feminist Thought: (Ch. 1, 2, 3) by Patricia Hill Collins
  • For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange

September 28

  • Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood by bell hooks

Week 5: The Archives of Black Girlhood Studies

October 3

  • Venus in Two Acts by Saidiya Hartman
  • Black Girlhood in the Nineteenth Century by Nazera Sadiq Wright

October 5

  • Black Feminist Thought (Ch. 11) by Patricia Hill Collins
  • “A litany for survival” by Audre Lorde

Week 6: Representations of Black Girlhood

October 10

  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • “Gospels According to Faith: Rewriting Black Girlhood through the Quilt” by Myisha Priest

October 12

  • Watch: The Fits (2016 film)
  • “Bodies that matter: Black Girlhood in the Fits” by Patricia White

Week 7: Black Girls’ Voices

October 17

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • “Narrative Significations of Contemporary Black Girlhood” Wanda Brooks, Dia Sekayi, Lorraine Savage, Ellyn Waller and Iresha Picot

October 19

  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Barnard Zine collection

Week 8: Black Girlhood Policed and Criminalized

October 24

  • Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique Morris
  • “Super-Girl: Strength and Sadness in Black girlhood” by Nia Michelle Nunn

October 26 MIDTERM DUE by 9pm

Week 9: Black Girlhood Policed and Criminalized

October 31

  • The Criminalization of Black Children: Race, Gender, and Delinquency in Chicago’s Juvenile Justice System, 1899–1945 by Tera Eva Agyepong

November 2

  • “Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected” by the African American Policy Forum and Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies
  • “Unwidowing: Rachel Jeantel, Black Death, and the “Problem” of Black Intimacy” by Jennifer Nash

Week 10: Black Girlhood Sexuality

November 7

  • Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments:Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval by Saidiya Hartman (Selected Chapters)
  • “Uses of the Erotic” by Audre Lorde

November 9

  • “Queer Like Me: Black girlhood sexuality, on the playground, under the covers and in the halls of academia” by Adilia James
  • “Stop Expecting Black children to grow up straight & cisgender” by George M. Johnson
  • “#Fasttailedgirls And Why The Sexual Assault Of Black Girls Is Not A Joke” by Jamie-Nesbitt Godlen
  • “How We Make Black Girls Grow Up Too Fast” by Tressie McMillan Cottom

Week 11: Black Girlhood, Hip Hop, and Popular Culture

Discuss Final Assignments

November 14

  • Black Girlhood Celebration: Toward a hip hop feminist pedagogy (Intro and Conclusion) by Ruth Nicole Brown
  •  “One Time for My Girls: African-American Girlhood, Empowerment, and Popular Visual Culture” by Treva Lindsey

November 16

  • “Envisioning Black Girl Futures Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda Feminism and New Understandings of Black Girl Sexuality in Popular Culture” by Aria S. Halliday
  • Hip Hop’s Li’l Sistas Speak: Negotiating Hip Hop Identities and Politics in the New South (Chapter Two: Hip Hop, Context, and Black Girlhood) by Bettina Love
  • Watch: Excellence First

Week 12: Diasporic Black Girls

November 21

  • Combahee River Collective Statement
  • Making Modern Girls: A History of Girlhood, Labor, and Social Development in Colonial Lagos (Introduction, Ch. 2, Ch. 7, Conclusion) by Abosede George
  • “Opening Up Space for Global Black Girls A Dialogue Between Gabrielle Civil and Zetta Elliott”

November 23


Week 13: Diasporic Black Girls

November 28

  •  ‘Without community, there is no liberation’: on #BlackGirlMagic and the rise of Black woman-centered collectives in South Africa
  • “Meet South African Songstress Toya Delazy, The Voice Behind The New Melanin-Drenched Powerpuff Girl” by Rachaell Davis

November 30

  • She’s Mad Real: Popular Culture and West Indian Girls in Brooklyn by Oneka LaBennett

Week 14: Black Girlhood and Spirituality

December 5

December 7

  • Student Presentations

Final Due December 18th by 9pm

Black Girlhood Studies Rules of Engagement  

Here are a few things to consider when reading and discussing the texts in class for the quarter:

Think creatively—not just about content, but form and effect/affect.

Use your encyclopedia/dictionary/wikipedia/Google: look up people and terms; discover the historical and cultural links.

Use your own experience/reactions/emotions as a bridge to critical analysis. Lived experiences matter.

Go beyond. Challenge yourself to get beyond what you think you already know. Don’t stop at the obvious, question how things come to be “obvious” or commonsense.

Be respectful of your fellow students and their opinions— respectful discourse is essential to a productive conversation. Listen respectfully and be open to different opinions and new ideas.

Ask questions when you do not understand; do not assume you know what others are thinking or that everyone else is one the same page.

Allow time for your fellow students to think— respect silence.


For the holiday season, #giftblackchildrenslit on Twitter highlights 30 days of contemporary Black children’s literature that make for great gifts! Books focus mostly on early elementary and middle school readers but also includes some young adult books; all ranging from prose, poetry, magical realism and more.

Day 1: June Peters, You Will Change the World One Day by Alika R. Turner (Ages 6-12)

Day 2: Benny Doesn’t Like to be Hugged by Zetta Elliott (Ages 4-8)

Day 3: Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins and Bryan Collier (Ages 4-8)

Day 4: I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina (Ages 12 and up)

Day 5: Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes (Ages 3-8)

Day 6: Nadia Knox and the Eye of Zinnia by Jessica McDougie (Ages 8-12)

Day 7: Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke (Ages 3-7)

Day 8: Patina by Jason Reynolds (Ages 10 and up)

Day 9: Max and the Tag-Along Moon by Floyd Cooper (Ages 3-7)

Day 10: Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle (Ages 4-7)

Day 11: Momma, Did You Hear the News? by Sanya Whittaker Gragg (Ages 5-10)

Day 12: Electric Arches by Eve Ewing (Ages 11 and up)

Day 13: A Piece of Black Cake for Santa by Yolanda T. Marshall (Ages 4-8)

Day 14: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Ages 13 and up)

Day 15: Tiny Stitches by Gwendolyn Hooks (Ages 7-12)

Day 16: Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison (Ages 8 and up)

Day 17: The Adventures of Malik and Mya: My Words are SuperPowers by Porsha Hargrove (Ages 4-8)

Day 18: Riley Can Be Anything by Davina Hamilton (Ages 2-5)

Day 19: Jupiter Storm by Marti Dumas (Ages 8-12)

Day 20: Down by the River: Afro-Caribbean Rhymes, Games and Songs for Children by Grace Hallworth (Ages 2-6)

Day 21: Daddy There’s a Noise Outside by Kenneth Braswell (Ages 5-10)

Day 22: Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older (Ages 12 and up)

Day 23: Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest Episode 1: The Quest for Screen Time by Marti Dumas (Ages 4-10)

Day 24: Yo Soy Muslim: A Father’s Letter to His Daughter by Mark Gonzales (Ages 4-8)

Day 25: Color My Fro: A Natural Hair Coloring Book by Crystal Swain-Bates (All ages)

Day 26: Happy to be Nappy by bell hooks (Ages 3-6)

Day 27: I Don’t See Color by G. Todd Taylor (Ages 4-10)

Day 28: The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson (Ages 11 and up)

Day 29: Sasha Savvy Loves to Code by Sasha Ariel Alston (Ages 7-12)

Day 30: Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe (Ages 5-10)