Black Disabled Woman Syllabus: A Compilation

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Over the past few weeks, I have been approached by individuals who wanted to understand the Black disabled experience, particularly the plight of Black disabled women and why our struggles matter.  (The inquiries picked up when I published my “Lemonade” post last week.)  I noticed a pattern from those who asked of my knowledge and personal reflections:  many are ignorant of the experiences of Black Americans in general, Black women particularly, and when broken down further, Black disabled women specifically.  

I decided that as someone who views herself as an “educator” within my advocacy scope, it would be fitting to create a compilation of books, essays/articles, speeches, music, and other bodies of work that accurately explains the diverse forms of Blackness that exists for Black women, and how the lives of Black disabled women meshed within that discourse.  

I asked some of my incredible friends and fellow advocates for resource recommendations for this idea, and was provided a wealth of information that surpassed my hopes in establishing a “syllabus” of our intersectional experience.  

The Black Disabled Woman Syllabus is a “living” document; meaning that I aspire to update it as needed, when resources become available that should be added to it.  In order to do that, I need your help:  If there are bodies of work that should be on the syllabus, there are two ways to make recommedations:

  1. Use the hashtag #BDWSyllabus on social media to share your recs.
  2. Email me at Vilissa@rampyourvoice.com.
    Subject heading of your email should read:  “BDW Syllabus Recommendation.”

There’s only one thing left to say:  Class is now in session.

*If you reference or quote from this syllabus, please use the suggested citation:

Thompson, Vilissa.  (May 5, 2016). Black Disabled Woman Syllabus. Ramp Your Voice! http://rampyourvoice.com/2016/05/05/black-disabled-woman-syllabus-compilation/

* * *

Black Feminism / Womanism

12 Summer Reads for Revolutionary Black Women by For Harriet
Ain’t I a Woman
by bell hooks
Alice Walker’s Womanism:  Theory & Practice by Elisabeth Torfs
Black, Female, And Able:  Representations of Sojourner Truth and Theories of Embodiment by Meredith Minister
Black Feminist Thought:  Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment by Patricia Hill Collins
Black Woman’s Manifesto:  Double Jeopardy:  To Be Black and Female by Frances M. Beal
Critical Race Theory:  The Key Writings that Formed the Movement by Kimberle Crenshaw
Feminism Is for Everybody by bell hooks
Feminist Theory:  From the Margins to the Center by bell hooks
Home Girls:  A Black Feminist Anthology by Barbara Smith
In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens:  Womanist Prose by Alice Walker
Killing the Black Body:  Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts
On Intersectionality:  Essential Writings by Kimberle Crenshaw  (Forthcoming November 2016)
Reimagining Equality:  Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home by Anita Hill
Shadowboxing:  Representations of Black Feminist Politics by Joy James
Sister Citizen:  Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America by Melissa Harris-Perry
Sister Outsider:  Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
Sojourner Truth:  Ain’t I A Woman by Patricia McKissack
The Black Woman:  An Anthology by Toni Cade Bambara
The Sisters Are Alright:  Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America by Tamara Winfrey Harris
This Bridge Called My Back, Fourth Edition:  Writings by Radical Women of Color by Cherrie Moraga
The Truth that Never Hurts:  Writings on Race, Gender, & Freedom by Barbara Smith
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngizo Adichie
When And Where I Enter:  The Impact of Race and Sex on Black Women in America by Paula J. Giddings
When Chickenheads Come to Roost:  A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down by Joan Morgan
Women, Culture, & Politics by Angela Davis
Women, Race, & Class by Angela Davis
Words of Fire:  An Anthology of Black Feminist Thought by Beverly Guy-Sheftall
You’re Not Entitled To Comment On My Body Just Because I’m A Black Woman by Aja Barber


The Black Disabled Body & Identity

5 Things I Learned As a Black Woman with Depression by Zeba Blay
Actress Lisa Nicole Carson:  “I Thought I Had It All Together” by Aria Ellise
African Americans and the disABILITY Experience by the Museum on DisABILITY
African Americans and the disABILITY Experience – Additional Content by the Museum on DisABILITY
And Ain’t I A Black Woman?  The Invisibility of Minorities with Disabilities by Kimberleigh Beard
As Suicide Rates for Black Children Rise, Protecting Emotional Health is Vital by Dr. Rheeda Walker
Autism Month Essays:  The Price of Erasure by Kerima Cevik
Autism’s Race Problem by Carrie Arnold
Autistic While Black:  The Erasure of Blacks From Histories of Autism by Kerima Cevik
Being a Black Disabled Woman is an Act of Defiance:  Remembering #KorrynGaines by Vilissa Thompson
Being Black, Looking Good While Chronically Ill by Rachel Lovejoy
Black and anxious:  Why we can’t all just ‘keep it cool’ by Danni Roseman
Black, Disabled, and Female:  The Disintegration and Continuation of Struggle by Britney Wilson
Black Women With Disabilities Need More Support Than Just Financial Aid by Kwanzaa Imani
Blackness and Disability:  Critical Examinations and Cultural Interventions by Christopher M. Bell
Blacks and the Anti Assisted Suicide Movement by Anita Cameron
Body and Soul:  The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination by Alondra Nelson
Dating with Chronic Illness(es):  Healing Conversation with Sister-Friends by Jade P. Terry
Disability and Inequality:  Socioeconomic Imperatives and Public Policy in Jamaica by Annicia Gayle-Geddes
Disability Representation and the Problem with Inspiration Porn by Keah Brown
DisCrit:  Disability Studies and Critical Race Theory in Education by David J. Connor, Beth A. Ferri, & Subini A. Annamma
“Do You Think You’re Beautiful?:”  Navigating A Bearded, Black, Disabled, Fat Womanhood by Whitney P. Lopez at Philadelphia Printworks
Have Cane, Will Strut:  Black Disabled Woman by Heather Watkins
I Am a Black Woman With a Disability, Hear Me Roar by Crystal R. Emery
In Our Own Voices:  African American Stories of Oppression, Survival, and Recovery in Mental Health Systems by Vanessa Jackson
Incidents at the Intersection of Black Mental Health by Black Girl Nerds
Jenifer Lewis On Overcoming Denial With Mental Illness:  “Get Your F-cking A– To A Doctor” by Brande Victorian
Love, Disability, and Movies:  My Black Disabled Body Is Not the Body Reflected on Screen by Keah Brown
MayBeWell:  Shining a Spotlight on Mental Health in the Black Community by Sarah M. Kazadi
Medical Apartheid:  The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to Present by Harriet A. Washington
Mental Health Awareness Month:  Depression and the Black Superwoman Syndrome by EBONY Magazine
Mental Illness Is Not Just A ‘White Person’s Disease’  by Christina Bolden
Missing Frames:  Memoir of a Woman Living with Hidden Disabilities by Scooter
Mothering the “Useless:”  Black Motherhood, Disability, and Slavery by Jenifer L. Barclay
My Body Is No Longer My Own and I Am Terrified by Linda Chavers
Outside Mental Health:  Voices and Visions of Madness by Will Hall
Race, Gun Violence, & Mental Illness:  #BlackLivesMatter by David W. Oaks
Shadow and Sunshine by Eliza Suggs
#ShareHerStory:  How I worship my body and accept my disability by Gigi Giscome
Sounds Like Home:  Growing Up Black And Deaf In The South by Mary Herring Wright
The Black Body, Assisted Suicide, & the “Me Before You” Connection by Vilissa Thompson
The Cancer Journals by Audre Lorde
The Double Danger of Being Black and Mentally Ill by Carmelle Wolfson
The Hidden Treasure of Black ASL:  Its History and Structure by Carolyn McCatskill, et al.
The Protest Psychosis:  How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease by Jonathan Metzi
The Songs of Blind Folks:  African American Musicians and the Culture of Blindness by Terry Rowden
The Stigma of Being Black and Mentally Ill – How racism is preventing me from getting the help I need by Latria Graham
Therapists less likely to accept patients who aren’t white by Charles Pulliam-Moore
Things I’ve Learned In This Disabled Black Female Body by Crutches and Spice
Unspeakable:  The Story of Junius Wilson by Susan Burch & Hannah Joyner
What’s A Leg Got to Do With It? Black, Female, And Disabled in America by Donna R. Walton
Why I Can’t Breathe As a Black Disabled Woman In America by Vilissa Thompson
Why We Need to Talk About Racism as a Mental Health Trigger by Darnell L. Moore
Willow Weep for Me:  A Black Woman’s Through Depression by Meri Nana-Ama Danquah
You Get Past the Tears:  A Memoir of Love and Survival by Patricia Broadbent and Hydeia Broadbent


Articles About Blackness, Feminism, &/or Disability

#DisabledBlackLivesMatterToo by Persephone Jones
All Slurs Aren’t the N-Word! by Anita Cameron
Anti-Blackness And Accusations of Bigotry by Trudy at Gradient Lair
Anti-Blackness from Non-Black People of Color In Social Media Real Time by Trudy at Gradient Lair
Black Disability Activists at Trump Events by Anita Cameron
Black Feminism and Disability Studies – An Important Intersection by Kaitlyn Stewart
Black Feminism and Intersectionality by Sharon Smith
Breaking Down The Color of Autism:  Why Black Families Need Access to Resources Now by Tanvier Peart
Complexities and Messiness:  Race, Gender, Disability, and the Carceral Mind (Part 1) by Guest Contributor at The Feminist Wire
Developing and Reflecting on a Black Disability Studies Pedagogy:  Works from the National Black Disability Coalition via Disability Studies Quarterly
Disability Incarcerated:  Imprisonment and Disability in the United States and Canada by L. Ben-Moshe, C. Chapman, & A. Carey (Editors); Angela Y. Davis (Foreword)
Disability Justice in the Age of Mass Incarceration:  Perspectives on Race, Disability, Law, & Accountability by Talila A. Lewis
Exploring the Intersections of Race, Gender, Class, Ethnicity, and Disability by Denise Oliver Velez
Feminist Disability Studies by Kim Q. Hall
(Jennifer C. James’ essay, “Gwendolyn Brooks, World War II, and the Politics of Rehabilitation” is a must read in this anthology.)
From Writing Hip Hop Lyrics to Activism to Motherhood, Heather Watkins Shares Common Experiences & More by Leroy Moore
How Do We Support African American Students with Disabilities by David Johns
Honoring Arnaldo Rios-Soto and Charles Kinsey:  Achieving Liberation Through Disability Solidarity by Talila A. Lewis
How history erased this woman of color from the suffragette movement by Danielle Wiener-Bronner
How I Dragged Myself Out of the Abyss That is Depression Without a Rx by Moxiie
Interview with Krip-Hop Nation about Journalism & Police Brutality Against Disabled Black People by Vilissa Thompson
How I’m Learning to Not Be Ashamed of My Depression by Brionne Janae
Lack of Parental Support Compounds Depression in Some Girls of Color by Melanie Myers
Medicine has a long history of failing black people.  Let’s change that by Dr. Sushrut Jangi
Mental Health in Black and White by Twilah Hiari
Multiple Oppressions and the Disabled People’s Movement by Ayesha Vernon
My Feminism Is Black, Intersectional, and Womanist – And I Refuse to Be Left Out In the Movement by Jenika McCrayer
New Body Politics:  Narrating Arab and Black Identity in the Contemporary United States by Theri Pickens
Occupying Disability:  Critical Approaches to Community, Justice, and Decolonizing Disability by Pamela Block, Devva Kasnitz, Akemi Nishida, & Nick Pollard (Editors)
On Blackness And Perceptions of Able-Bodied Privilege by Trudy at Gradient Lair
Reflections From Parenting with a Disability by Heather Watkins
‘Solace.’ A Coming of Age Film That Tackles Eating Disorders and Self-Harm by Superselected
Stop Taking What Isn’t Yours! by Anita Cameron
The Black Feminist’s Guide to the Racist Sh*t That Too Many White Feminists Say by Maisha Z. Johnson
The Concept of White Supremacy Involving Sociopathy Is NOT Ableism by Trudy at Gradient Lair
The Harm Behind “Harmless” Jokes About Black Women and Girls by De La Fro
The Historical Roots of Contemporary Violence Against Black Pregnant Women by Tasasha Henderson
The Racial Discrimination Embedded in Modern Medicine by Lindsey Konkel
The Minority Body:  A Theory of Disability by Elizabeth Barnes
What’s At Stake When Race and Coercive Mental Health Treatment Collide? by Octavio N. Martinez, Jr. & Gregory Vincent
White People Using Blackness and Anti-Black Racism Analogies For Their Experiences Is NOT Intersectionality by Trudy at Gradient Lair
White Privilege & Inspiration Porn by Vilissa Thompson
Who’s the Keeper of Your Mother’s Memories When She Can’t Remember Them? by Danielle C. Belton


Books about Blackness in America

Assata:  An Autobiography by Assata Shakur
Black Stats:  African Americans by the Numbers in the Twenty-First Century by Monique W. Morris
Family Properties:  Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America by Beryl Satter
From Slavery to Freedom:  A History of African Americans (9th Ed.) by John Hope Franklin and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham
Institutional Freedom:  A Collection of African American Studies Essays by Joy Elan
Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Joy Angela Degruy
Pushout:  The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique W. Morris
The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
The Speeches of Fannie Lou Hamer:  To Tell It Like It Is by Maegan Parker Brooks & Davis W. Hock
Why Black Lives Matter (Too):  A Revolutionary Call to Action by Mary Canty Merrill, PhD


Fiction & Poetic Works

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Black Kripple Delivers Poetry & Lyrics by Leroy Moore
Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
In Love and Trouble:  Stories of Black Women by Alice Walker
Kindred by Octavia Butler
My Body Does Not Comply by Heather Watkins
Pinned by Sharon G. Flake
Silence Is Not Always Golden:  A Poetic Revolution by Joy Elan
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
The Autobiography of My Mother:  A Novel by Jamaica Kincaid
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston


Audio / Video

Chicks in Chairs (Vlog Series)
Iconoclast:  Dave Chappelle + Maya Angelou
Kate Gainer – Black disabled woman who shared her experiences in a 10-part series
Malcolm X – On Protecting Black Women
Talking Mental Health In The Black Community



Kebra Moore
Miriam Makeba
Sweet Honey In the Rock
Toni Hickman

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