Professor of English, Mills College




When Blacks Became Men: Race, Sex, and Gender in U.S. Popular Culture

During the last several months, the #BlackLivesMatter protest movement has brought renewed national attention to an old reality, that many people in the U.S. and beyond perceive African American men as somehow different - stronger, more masculine, more virile, more dangerous - than men of other ethnicities. 

In the U.S. today, Blackness has a gender, and that gender is male. This talk explores the roots of the gendering of U.S. Black identity as well as the various ways that popular culture has perpetuated what some have described as the hyper-visibility of Black men and the invisibility of Black womanhood. She traces the evolution of Blackness not only as a lived identity but as an idea. Her talk addresses the following questions: What are some of the ways that U.S. popular culture has defined Blackness over time, and how have the interests of the U.S. majority shaped the changing ways that Black people themselves have defined and presented themselves, in literature, in music, and on film? When has the relative invisibility of Black women undermined and silenced Black women and girls, and when has it benefitted them (and how)?


Ajuan M. Mance is a Professor of English at Mills College in Oakland, CA. She holds a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan--Ann Arbor.  She is the author of several articles and essays on race, gender, and literature in the U.S. She is also the author of two books, Inventing Black Women: African American Women Writers and Self-Representation, 1877-2000 (University of Tennessee Press, 2007) and Proud Legacy: The Colored Schools of Malvern, Arkansas and the Community that Made Them (Henson-Benson Foundation, 2013). Her third book, Before There Was Harlem: An Anthology of African American Literature from the Long Nineteenth Century, will be published by the University of Tennessee Press.

8:15 PM @ The Beer Hall