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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Afro-American Studies

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Manisha Sinha

Second Advisor

James Smethurst

Third Advisor

Marla Miller

Fourth Advisor

Lisa Gail Collins

Subject Categories

African American Studies | American Art and Architecture | American Material Culture | Art Practice | Fine Arts | Other History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology | Women's Studies


ABSTRACT WE ARE ROSES FROM OUR MOTHERS’ GARDENS: BLACK FEMINIST VISUALITY IN AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN’S ART MAY 2017 KELLI MORGAN, B.A., WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY M.A., UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST Ph.D., UNIVERISTY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST Directed by: Professor Manisha Sinha We Are Roses From Our Mothers' Gardens posits that in differing historical periods African American women visual artists employed various media and create from individual political thoughts, intellectual views, and aesthetic interests to emphasize the innate unification of a Black woman’s race, gender, sexuality, class, and selfhood and how this multifaceted dynamic of Black women’s identity and material reality produces a unique, multilayered form of oppression experienced only by Black women. Their diverse expressions of multilayered, figurative works acknowledge and address how the synthesis of racism, sexism, and patriarchy has been both mercurial and fixed throughout Black women’s existence in the United States. Thus, the dissertation argues that multilayered, figurative works of art by African American women artists are connected across time through Black feminist visuality, a creative imaging of Black women’s self-making, autonomy, subjectivity, and personal empowerment that allows them to transcend the distorted, mythological constructions of Black female identity concretized within western visual culture as it reveals the functions of western culture’s racist visuality and rejects its subjugation of Black women’s identity formation. Its sub-theory of visible-aggregation illustrates how Black feminist visuality exists among African American women artists as a shared self-defined standpoint of representing Black women’s identity and material reality in western visual art. Through a close reading of works by Sojourner Truth, Edmonia Lewis, Elizabeth Catlett, and Kara Walker the project demonstrates how African American women artists utilize visible-aggregation to express Black feminist visuality through multilayered, figurative art forms that exist as optical illustrations of Black feminism in the western visual realm.