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Big Bear Books

Decoding Images of the Revolutionary Black Woman

By Lakesia D. Johnson

Hardback, 183 pages $29.95
Published: 15th August 2012
ISBN: 9781602586444
Format: 8.5in x 5.5in

Subjects: All Cultural Studies, All Sociology, American History, American Studies, Media Studies

Angela Davis, Pam Grier, Alice Walker, Michelle Obama. Revolutionary black women have evoked strong reaction throughout American history. Magazines, political campaigns, music, television, and movies have relied upon deep-seated archetypes and habitually cast strong, countercultural black women as mammies and sexual objects. In Iconic Lakesia Johnson explores how this belittling imagery is imposed by American media, revealing an immense cultural fear of black women's power and potential.

But the media does not have the last word. Johnson chronicles how strong black women—truly revolutionary black women—have nonetheless taken control of their own imaging despite consistent negative characterizations. Through their speech, demeanor, fashion, and social relationships, women from Sojourner Truth to Michelle Obama have counteracted these depictions. With ingenuity, fortitude, and focus on the greater good, these revolutionary women transformed the cultural images of themselves and, simultaneously, those of American black women as a whole.

Seamlessly weaving together role models of past and present, from women in politics to artists and musicians, Johnson eloquently demonstrates how the revolutionary black woman in many public forums has been—and continues to be—a central figure in challenging long-standing social injustices.

For more, including photographs, videos, news, and author appearances, visit RevoutionaryBlackWomen.com.

1. The Myth of the Angry Black Woman: From Sojourner Truth to Michelle Obama
2. Revolutionary Black Women in the News: The Politics of Angela Davis and Kathleen Cleaver
3. Revolutionary Black Women in Film: Blaxploitation and the Legacy of Pam Grier
4. Revolutionary Black Women in Literature: The Narratives of Alice Walker and Audre Lorde
5. Revolutionary Black Women and Music: The Hip-Hop Feminism of Erykah Badu and Me'shell Ndegéocello
6. The Many Images of the Revolutionary Black Woman: Michelle Obama Reconsidered


"... insightful.... [Johnson] does a masterful job of demonstrating how revolutionary black women have miraculously maintained control of their images in the face of a flood of negative characterizations."

Kam Williams

"An amazing thought provoking read which forces you to think outside the box. Must read for anyone wanting to open their minds to the political value of African American women."

Vine Voice

"A timely and accessible interdisciplinary work on the politics implicit in representations of black 'revolutionary' women in the media—Lakesia Johnson's Iconic enhances the contemporary critical exploration of politicized black women and those operating in the glare of the political spotlight."

—Stephane Dunn, author of Baad Bitches & Sassy Supermamas: Black Power Action Films

"This work provides a much needed intervention into discourses concerning black womanhood, race and representation."

—Kimberly Nichele Brown, author of Writing the Black Revolutionary Diva: Women’s Subjectivity and the Decolonizing Text

"Iconic reminds us that black women have always risen above it all and will continue to rise."

—Tracey Ross, Racialicious

Lakesia D. Johnson is Assistant Professor of Gender, Women's & Sexuality Studies and English at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, where she offers courses on race, feminism, and popular culture.

Publication Details:

 Hardback , 183 pages
 8.5in x 5.5in
28 b/w images

  SOC022000, SOC028000, SOC052000, SOC056000
 Baylor University Press

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