The Long Tradition: Black Women and Mothers in Public Discourses

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Sanders, Tammy L.
Struna, Nancy L
ABSTRACT Title of Document THE LONG TRADITION: BLACK WOMEN AND MOTHERS IN POPULAR DISCOURSES Tammy Sanders, Doctor of Philosophy, 2009 Directed By: Chair and Professor Nancy Struna Department of American Studies With her insightful analysis, Nancy Lurkins in &ldquoYou are the Race, You are the Seeded Earth:&rdquo Intellectual Rhetoric, American Fiction, and Birth Control in the Black Community (2008), asserts &ldquo(past) black leaders promoted the ideal of black domesticity and moral motherhood as a counterstrategy to white attacks. Over time, appreciating and even desiring black motherhood came to be identified with black communal pride and as a result black women became responsible for upholding the entire race&rdquo (47). Similarly, recent history has proved to be no different when it comes to the responsibility of black mothers. This dissertation will explore how public discourses involving the social sciences, films, and novels historicize, represent, and re-envision black motherhood. It will investigate how these discourses about motherhood are shaped by the historical moment of their occurrence and what they tell us about the attitudes of those establishing critical thought. By examining texts like the Moynihan Report, Ann Petry's <italic>The Street</italic>, Lorraine Hansberry's play,<italic> A Raisin in the Sun</italic>, and the 1974 film <italic>Claudine</italic>, this project will analyze the rhetoric of scholars about black motherhood alongside popular images of black mothers to illustrate how they overlap and how black women's bodies are consistently at the nexus of academic, social, cultural and political conversations. In an attempt to further complicate mothering studies by using black feminist thought as my lens, this dissertation seeks to tease out the interconnectedness of historical moments and discourses without perpetuating traditional gender norms as it relates to black female identities.