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Date of Award


Access Type

Campus Access

Document type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Afro-American Studies

First Advisor

James Smethurst

Second Advisor

John H. Bracey

Third Advisor

Margo Crawford

Subject Categories

African American Studies | Modern Literature | Women's Studies


My dissertation considers the ways in which African/African Diasporan women creatively and politically address and respond to the public communal and societal narratives around being Black, as a result of how Blackness isreceived and often perceived in a very essential way, in American and European societies. This study notes and complicates how African and Black Diasporic women create and sustain a space that evokes a combative discourse, as they recreate and represent themselves in literary and visual texts. The framework of my dissertation articulates three core objectives: to redefine and re-envision "Black" as it applies to creative and theoretical writing about African and African descended women writers and visual artists; to define/discuss the concept of an African Diaspora and a "Black Diasporan " consciousness that adequately represents the complexities of Black women's identities in different geopolitical and cultural locations; and to situate the significance of the cultural and literary production of Black women writers and artists as combative discourse.

This study situates and argues that being Black and being a woman are important sites of critical inquiry. These sites of inquiry must therefore be assessed and analyzed by considering the specific historical positionalities and truths that appear and live in the texts of Black women writers and artists. The idea of "uncovering" points to a specific interdisciplinary method of reading the symbolism and imagery of these women's texts that employs an intersectional analysis and considers diverse Black feminist, art historical, cultural studies, and African Diaspora epistemological standpoints. I argue that specific literary and visual texts posit a very particular and diverse Black woman's history and culture as well as presenting counter narrative(s) to the mainstream narrative(s) that negate Black women. This study addresses the specificities of Black women as creators and cultural producers, their texts, and their representative images by considering a multi-level analysis; therefore, no one narrative or text privileges another. My dissertation establishes an intellectual and creatively political kitchen space of sorts where the texts and images of Black women meet, impart wisdom, and hold court. I argue that this sacred intellectual and artistic space is where these texts not only address being Black and Blackness, but also proffers an important Africana body-politics and autonomy. This project begins with a discussion that considers writers Yvonne Truque America, Charmaine Gill, and artists Deborah Roberts and Lezley Saar (to name a few) and the ways in which their texts converge as combative discourse. My study then focuses on Sonia Sanchez and a selection of her texts as the creative and theoretical core of the combative discourse. Sanchez represents an important foundation and beginning of this discourse as she is a genre-crosser and cultural practitioner who illustrates a crucial allegiance to the identity and representative voices of Black women, the Black communal collective, and a global political aesthetic. Sanchez embodies activism as well as an important Africana aesthetic blending that further complicates the combative discourse.

Further, Sanchez represents a legacy of Black women's texts and functions as a foremother to poets and performers such as Jill Scott and Ursula Rucker as indicated by a close reading of their texts. These writers further the poetic and dramatic spheres of the combative discourse and also provide a complexly layered political and cultural aesthetic. The combative discourse therefore illustrates the complexities and politics of context, text, subtext, voice, image, and representation, while situating the ways in which the particular cultural, historical, and socio-political lenses impact Black women's literary and visual texts.