Bettina Judd | Author of Patient

Bettina Judd

Art. Feminism. Femme Fire.

Black Gender: 

Manhood and Womanhood 

in the African American Community 


This course (listed as AFCNA323 and GNDST333C) was developed by Prof. Bettina Judd for the Fall of 2013. During the course of the semester we shared information and discussed readings on Twitter  under the hastag #BlackGenderMHC. Below, is the syllabus.

Course Site only available on Mount Holyoke's Campus.

Course Description:

This intermediate course engages with issues in popular culture, scholarship, and art that negotiate the complex terrain of Black gender. We question the concepts of manhood and womanhood and their intersection with racial constructs as categories of personhood through the critical lens of Africana Studies and Gender Studies. Black genders is identified as the ways in which gender, for African Americans, is always mediated by race.


By the end of the course, students are expected to:

  • be able to identify the way in which gender is simultaneously raced for U.S. Black women and men.
  • be able to critique and question the notions of Black manhood and Black womanhood.
  • be able to discuss race and gender as social constructions.
  • be able to identify the ways in which these social constructions are mediated by culture and popular media.
  • be able to discuss the ways in which Black sexualities are affected by Black gender.



Course Outline


The Social Construction of Gender and the Problematics of Race

Constructing identity is a complex and ever evolving process in U.S. history, especially as it relates to race and gender. In thinking about Constructions of Black Manhood and Black Womanhood, we must question the attitudes, ideas, roles, and even bodies that we think are “natural.” In understanding that both gender and race are socially constructed, we too understand that gender and race are unfixed—ever-changing categories of difference that are influenced by culture. In this unit we will discuss some of these social constructions; evaluate the ways in which race and gender has been constructed in the past and the present; and finally examine how these constructions are complicated by other categories of difference. 


How does it feel to be a problem? Making Identity

Thursday, September 5

In Class: Introductions & Syllabus Review 


Tuesday, September 10

Read before class: “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” – W.E.B. DuBois from The Souls of Black Folk (M) and Introduction to Gender Talk

In Class: Lecture and Discussion 


Thursday, September 12

View before class: Black Is…Black Ain’t – Marlon Riggs (M) 

In Class: Discussion


Tuesday, September 17 – Last day to add

Read before class: “Constructing and Visualizing Race” Michael D. Harris Colored Pictures: Race and Visual Representation (M)

In Class: Discussion


Thursday, September 19 

Read before class: “The Personal is Political” in Gender Talk 

In Class: Discussion


In Defense of Ourselves and Each Other


Tuesday, September 24 – Last day to withdraw with no W

What Does it Mean? Assignment Due

Read: “Southern Horrors” by Ida. B. Wells Found at Project Gutenberg <>, “Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female” by Frances Beale in Words of Fire (M)

In Class: Discussion



Thursday, September 26 

Read: Chapters 1-3, 5-6 of Traps

In Class: Discussion


Tuesday, October 1

Mountain Day (Now we know.)


Black Gender in the Public Sphere


Now that we understand that race and gender are social categories that are always intersecting, let us look at some ways in which these intersecting positionalities are negotiated in the public sphere. By looking at political moments in which Black Visibility in the U.S. was particularly heightened, whether it be the release of the stage play For Colored Girls or the film The Color Purple, the O.J. Simpson trial, or the many film and media images that portray Black folks, we can see how Black Womanhood and Manhood is constructed by the media, and by Black people themselves.


Thursday, October 3

Read before class: “Having Their Say: Conversations With Sisters and Brothers” in Gender Talk and Ch. 17 “Here Be Dragons” by James Baldwin in Traps

In Class: Discussion


Tuesday, October 8 – Midterm Assignment Discussion

View and Read before class: Birth of a Nation D.W. Griffith

“Myth and Fact: The Reception of ‘The Birth of a Nation’ ” Film History, Volume 16, pp. 117-141, 2004.

In Class: Discussion


Black Men, Black Women, and the Image of Violence


Thursday, October 10

View and read before class: The Color Purple Stephen Spielberg dir. Written by Alice Walker (M)

“Black women's responses to The Color Purple” Jacqueline Bobo from Jump Cut <> and

“Blacks in Heated Debate Over “The Color Purple” by E.R. Shipp from The New York Times 1986 {Bb} 

“To Blacks, Precious is ‘Demeaned’ or ‘Angelic’ by Felicia R. Lee <>

“For Colored Girls: More than Enuf Man Bashing” by Michael O’Sullivan <,1159977/critic-review.html>

In Class: Discussion


Tuesday, October 15 – Fall Break NO CLASS


Thursday, October 17 – Midterm Assignment

Read before class: “Young Don’t Give a Fuck and Black: Black Gangster Films” The Hip Hop Generation by Bakari Kitwana {Bb}

Chapter 25 “Black Men in the Movies, How Does it Feel to be a Problem and an Answer” in Traps

“Questlove On Trayvon Martin + The Psychology Of “You Ain’t Shit” (Online) <>

In Class: Discussion


Tuesday, October 22

Read before class: Chapter 5 of Gender Talk “Race Secrets and the Body Politic” and Chapter 11, 16 and 19 of Traps  

In Class: Discussion


Thursday, October 24

View before class:  No! by Aishah Simmons

In Class: Midterm Prep


Tuesday, October 29

Read before class: Yarbrough, M., and C. Bennett. “Cassandra and the Sistahs: The Peculiar Treatment of African American Women in the Myth of Women as Liars.” J. Gender Race & Just. 3 (1999): 625-57. and 

     Walley-Jean, J. Celeste. “Debunking the Myth of the “Angry Black Woman”: An Exploration of Anger in Young African American Women.” Black Women, Gender & Families 3.2 (2009): 68-86.

In Class: Discussion



Black Sexuality and Black Love


In popular media there is much has been said about Black violence. Violence committed against Blacks and violent acts that Black people commit upon each other. Yet, other issues have been particularly important to the U.S. Black community for the past century and that is the ideal (yes ideal) of “the Black family.” Likewise, Black sexualities are an often-contested space. More recently questions regarding Black sexualities have been examined for their presumed deviance (Black women in music videos and “The Down Low” are examples). Here we will also look at Black sexualities and the ways in which they also shape the construction of Black manhood and womanhood. Finally, we will look at Black love. Taking—as this course has taken—a community approach to this idea.


Black Sexualities


Thursday, October 31

Read before class: “Black Sexuality: The Taboo Subject” by Cornell West and “When You Divide Body and Soul, Problems Multiply” in Traps

In Class: Discussion


Tuesday, November 5

Read before class: “Black Lesbian and Gay: Speaking the Unspeakable” in Gender Talk  and “Privilege” Devon W. Carbado Black Queer Studies

In Class: Discussion 


Thursday, November 7

Read and view before class: Chapter 26, 31 and 32: of Traps 

In Class: Discussion


Music and Black Gender Politics


Tuesday, November 12

Read before class: “The Emergence of the Hip-Hop Generation” – Kitwana (M)

In Class: Discussion


Thursday, November 14 – Last day to withdraw with a W

Read before class: Chapter 7 Gender Talk, “Mission Statement of the Black Men for the Eradication of Sexism” Traps Ch. 16

In Class: Discussion


Tuesday, November 19

Read Before Class: “Love Feminism but Where’s My Hip Hop? Shaping a Black Feminist Identity” – Pough (M); The New Black Youth Culture: 

In Class: Discussion


Family and Black Love


Thursday, November 21

Reading: “Hip Hop Soul Mate?” Hip Hop Soul Divas and Rap Music: Critiquing the Love that Hate Produced” - Pough; “Where Did Our Love Go? The New War of the Sexes The Hip Hop Generation by Bakari Kitwana

In Class: Discussion


Tuesday, November 26

Reading: “Reflections on the Black woman’s Role in the Community of Slaves” Angela Davis Words of Fire; “Chapter II. The Negro American Family” The Moynihan Report from the U.S. Department of Labor <>

“Introduction,” – Dorothy Roberts Killing the Black Body (M)

In Class: Discussion


Thursday, November 28 – Thanks-taking recess


Tuesday, December 3

Read before class: “The Dark Side of Birth Control” and “The Welfare Debate”– Dorothy Roberts Killing the Black Body 56-103, 202-245

In Class: Discussion


Thursday, December 5

Read before class: “Loving Black Folks as Political Resistance” Black Looks bell hooks (M)

Epilogue to Traps and “Where do We Go From Here?” In Gender Talk

In Class: Discussion


Tuesday, December 10 – Last day of Classes

Final Assignment Due + Class Assignment Discussion

© Bettina Judd 2014-2018. All rights reserved.