Birthing Black Mothers

Birthing Black Mothers

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 9 illustrations Published: August 2021

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies

In Birthing Black Mothers Black feminist theorist Jennifer C. Nash examines how the figure of the “Black mother” has become a powerful political category. “Mothering while Black” has become synonymous with crisis as well as a site of cultural interest, empathy, fascination, and support. Cast as suffering and traumatized by their proximity to Black death—especially through medical racism and state-sanctioned police violence—Black mothers are often rendered into one-dimensional symbols of tragic heroism. In contrast, Nash examines Black mothers’ self-representations and public performances of motherhood—including Black doulas and breastfeeding advocates alongside celebrities like Beyoncé, Serena Williams, and Michelle Obama—that are not rooted in loss. Through cultural critique and in-depth interviews, Nash acknowledges the complexities of Black motherhood outside its use as political currency. Throughout, Nash imagines a Black feminist project that refuses the lure of locating the precarity of Black life in women and instead invites readers to theorize, organize, and dream new modes of Black motherhood.


“Viewing Black motherhood as a trending political site, Jennifer C. Nash boldly pushes Black feminists to reflect critically on their own embrace of crisis rhetoric that casts Black maternal bodies as mere symbols of state violence marked by suffering, trauma, and grief. While powerfully arguing we risk reproducing Black mothers as problems in need of intervention and relying on low-wage Black birth workers to save them, Nash points to ways we can theorize new forms of Black maternal freedom that refuse confinement to a marketed crisis frame.” — Dorothy Roberts, author of Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jennifer C. Nash is Jean Fox O’Barr Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Duke University and author of The Black Body in Ecstasy: Reading Race, Reading Pornography and Black Feminism Reimagined, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. The Afterlives of Malaysia Goodson, or Black Mothering in Crisis  1
1. Black Gold: Remaking Black Breasts in an Era of Crisis  31
2. In the Room: Birthwork by Women of Color in a State of Emergency  69
3. Black Maternal Aesthetics: The Making of a Noncrisis Style  103
4. Writing Black Motherhood: Black Maternal Memoirs and Economies of Grief  133
Conclusion. The Afterlives of Jazmine Headley  173
Coda. "All Mothers Were Summoned when George Floyd Called Out for His Mama"  179
Notes  187
Bibliography  209
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1442-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1350-1