Black Women Matter: The #BlackLivesMatter Movement, Black Female Singers, and Intersectional Feminism


  • Giuseppe Polise



In view of the 2016 release of a number of musical endeavors that centre black womanhood, the present contribution studies the way in which contemporary black female music and US black protest culture (namely, the #BlackLivesMatter) intersect each other and are mutually empowering. Positing that such strong connection has history, the article focuses on the major names of Nina Simone, Lauryn Hill, and Beyoncé, who, since the Civil Rights Era, have forged a legacy in terms of raising consciousness around black feminism, which resonates tremendously in popular culture.


Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. We Should All Be Feminist. London: Fourth Estate, 2014.
Anderson Monica and Hitlin Paul. “The Hashtag #BlackLivesMatter emerges: Social Activism on Twitter.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, 2016. Last Visited March 13, 2017.
Bouie, Jamelle. “Where Black Lives Matter Began: Hurrican Katrina Exposed our Nation’s Amazing Tolerance for Black Pain.", 2016. 2015/08/hurricane_katrina_10th_anniversary_how_the_black_lives_matter_movement_was.html.
Last Visited March 13, 2017.
Bradley, Regina N. “Getting In Line: Working Through Beyoncé’s ‘Formation.’” The Huffington Post, 2016.
Last Visited March 12, 2017.
Braswell, Kristine. "#FergusonFridays: Not all of the Black freedom fighters are men: An interview with the black women on the frontline." The Feminist Wire, 2014. Last Visited March 13, 2017.
Brooks, Dafne A. “How #BlackLivesMatter Started a Musical Revolution.” The, 2016. Last Visited March 13, 2017.
Cohen, Cathy J. “Afterwords: When Will Black Lives Matter? Neoliberalism, Democracy, and the Queering of American Activism in the Post-Obama Era.” The Hip-Hop and Obama Reader. Ed. Travis L. Gosa and Erik Nielson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. 280-290.
---. The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.
Cohodas, Nadine. Princess Noire: The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2010.
Collins, Patricia H. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge, 1990.
---. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Connor Martin, Katherine. “Release Notes: Bama and Shaka: How Two Local Words Went Global.” Oxford English Dictionaries: The Definite Record of the English Language. Last Visited March 13, 2017.
Cooper, Anna Julia. A Voice from the South: by a Black Woman of the South. Xenia: Aldine Printing House, 1892. Last Visited March 13, 2017.
Crenshaw, Kimberle. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review 43 (1991): 1242-1299.
---. “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” University of Chicago Legal Forum 1989.1 (2000): 139-167.
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Boston: The Anti-Slavery Office, 1845. Last Visited March 14, 2017.
Eisenstein, Zillah. The Color of Gender: Reimagining Democracy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.
Feldstein, Ruth. “I Don’t Trust You Anymore: Nina Simone, Culture and Black Activism in the 1960s.” The Journal of American History 91.4 (2005): 1349-1379.
Fleetwood, Nicole R. On Racial Icon: Blackness and the Public Imagination. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2015.
Fried, Joseph P. “In Surprise, Witness Says Officer Bragged About Louima Torture.” The New York Times, 1999. Last Visited March 13, 2017.
Garza, Alicia. “A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement.” Black Lives Matter: Freedom and Justice for All Black Lives, 2014. Last Visited March 14, 2017.
Gottesman, Tamar. “Beyoncé Wants to Change the Conversation: These days the superstar-turned-mogul is slaying ̶ pop charts, music industry standards, societal labels, and now, athleticwear biz ̶ all on her own.” Elle magazine, 2016. Last Visited March 14, 2017.
Harris-Perry, Melissa V. Sister Citizens: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011.
Hobson Janell and Bartlow R. Dianne. “Introduction: Representin’: Women, Hip-Hop, and Popular Music.” Feminism, Race, Transnationalism 8.1 (2008): 1-14.
Hobson, Janell. “Beyoncé as a Conjure Woman: Reclaiming the Magic of Black Lives (That) Matter.” Ms. Blog, 2016. Last Visited March 13, 2017.
Johnson, Myles E. “What Beyoncé Won Was Bigger than a Grammy.” The New York Times, February 14, 2017. html?_r=0. Last Visited March 14, 2017.
Johnson, Patrick E. Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.
Jordan-Zachery, Julia S. Black Women, Cultural Images and Social Policy. New York: Routledge, 2009.
La Marr, Jurelle Bruce. “The People Inside my Head, too: Madness, Black Womanhood, and the Racial Performance of Lauryn Hill.” African American Review 45.3 (2003): 371-389.
Larsen, Nella. Passing. New York and London: Alfred A. Knopf, 1929. Last Visited March 14, 2017.
Lee, Chana Kai. “Journey toward a Different Self: the defining power of illness, race, and gender.” Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower. Ed. Deborah Gray White. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008. 200-214.
Lockett, Dee. “Big Freedia on Slayin’ Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ ̶ and Being Surprised by Its Release.” Vulture. com, 2016 Last Visited March 3, 2017.
McGee Tiffany and Tresniowski Alexander. “What Ever Happened to...Lauryn Hill?” People, 2008. Last accessed March 3, 2017.
Morgan, Joan. “They Call Me Ms. Hill.” Essence, 2006. Last Visited March 13, 2017.
Ripani, Richard J. The New Blue Music: Changes in Rythm & Blues 1950-1999. Jackson: The University Press of Mississippi, 2006.
Smith, Mychal Denzel. "The Black Boy Literary Survival Kit: 'You Need Black Women More than You Know.’" Literary Hub, 2016. Last accessed March 14, 2017.
Sparks, Holloway. “Queens, teens, and model mothers.” Race and Politics of Welfare Reform. Ed. Sanford F. Schram, Joes Soss, and Richard C. Fordy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2003. 171-195.
Spillers, Hortense. “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book.” Culture and Countermemory: The ‘American’ Connection.” Special Issue of Diacritics 17.2 (1987): 64-81.
Swaine, John, et al. “Young Black Men Killed by White US Police at Highest Rate in Year of 1,134 Deaths.” The, 2015. Last Visited March 11, 2017.
Tate, Greg. “Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly (2015).” Rolling Stone.
Last Visited March 14, 2017.
Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta. From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2016.
Van Dijk, Teun A. Prejudice in Discourse: An Analysis of Ethnic Prejudice in Cognition and Conversation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1985.
---. Racism and the press. London: Routledge, 1991.
Shire, Warsan. “Grief Has Its Blue Hands in Her Hair.” Her Blue Body. London: Flipped Eye, 2015.
Weissen, Naomi. “Mutineers in Mainstream Music: heralds of a New Feminist Wave?” Women, Images and Realities: A Multicultural Anthology. Ed. Keselman, McNair, and Schniedewind. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2003.






Articles (general section) - American language, literature, and culture