Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.
Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.
Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.
Author ORCID Identifier
Open Access Dissertation
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Professor Ernest Allen, Jr.
African American Studies | Other Film and Media Studies | Political History | United States History | Visual Studies | Women's History | Women's Studies
This dissertation focuses specifically on dancer Katherine Dunham (1909-2006), pianist Hazel Scott (1920-1981), cartoonist Jackie Ormes (1911-1985), singer Lena Horne (1917-2010), and graphic artist, painter, and sculptor Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012). It explores the artistic, performative, and political resistance deployed by these five African-American women activists, artists, and performers in the period between 1937 and 1957. The principal form of resistance employed by these women was cultural resistance. Using a mixture of archival research, first person interview, biography, as well as other primary and secondary sources, I explore how these women constructed personas, representations, and media images of African-American women to challenge the racialized, reductive constructions found in mainstream white media and fine art outlets. They simultaneously engaged in “off the page” and “off the stage” political activism during eras that were pivotal within the African-American fight for freedom and equality. The primary purpose of the dissertation then is to unveil this multi-terrain struggle over Black female agency, equality, image, and representation waged by highly visible African-American artists and performers positioned in popular culture and fine art during this period. I argue that this battle is a fundamental component and sits within the larger long struggle for African-American freedom and equality.
Caldwell, Heather Zahra, "Imaging Her Selves: Black Women Artists, Resistance, Image and Representation, 1938-1956" (2015). Doctoral Dissertations. 350.
African American Studies Commons, Other Film and Media Studies Commons, Political History Commons, United States History Commons, Visual Studies Commons, Women's History Commons, Women's Studies Commons