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Black Mothers
Communal Ownership of their
Daughters Degrees
Giovanni N. Dortch & Candice Lucas Bledsoe

National Womens Studies Association

2013 Annual Conference
Cincinnati, OH
The Problem of Black Motherhood

Black motherhood has consistently been

challenged and problematized in the
broader sociopolitical discourse.

(Hortense Spillers)
The Problem of Black Motherhood
The historical problem of Black Motherhood
is a racial conundrum, the inverse of racial
convergence perspectives (CRT)

It is acceptable for black mothers to mother

white children, but they are viewed as
incompetent mothers of their own black-
Reclaiming Prestige

We argue that Black mothers reclaim

prestige, and emphasize the value of
motherhood through engaging in practices
of activist mothering and communal
ownership of their daughters degrees.
Womanist Theory
It is important to address womanist theory,
ethics, and research methods because our
work is womanist work.
Using a womanist analysis frames our work
historically by giving it an historical location.
It also frames the practices that women
were engaged in.
Taking the womanist approach gives the
terminology to talk about this type of
Generational Mothering Practices

The practices we uncover in our

research are practices that have existed
in African American community.

These practices are historically and

presently relevant and effective.
Mothering Practices
Other mothering

Communal Mothering

Activist Mothering

Communal Ownership
Other mothering
Introduced by Patricia Hill Collins
This appeared as cross generational
mothering, mothering done by surrogates,
and multilayered mothering
Ex: mothering and grandmothering labor were
often simultaneous; aunts and others served
mothering roles; daughters mothered and were
mothered at the same time
Community Value
There is an actual value of community over
individualism, as a part of African American

That value of the community extends to


Black women academics know their work is

not only for themselves, but also for the
benefit of their community.
Communal Mothering
Communities recognize the need to invest
in individuals in order to realize larger
goalsthe goals of the individual often
reflect an investment by the community.

Members of the community recognize the

necessity and importance of a communal
practice of mothering.
The Valuing of Motherhood
Academia as an institution does not value or
support motherhood.
Sekile is warned not to have a family or get
pregnant in grad school.
Engaging in motherhood is a way that
African-American women gain prestige.
Communal mothering is important to African
American scholars. This is evident in their
activities of collective support rather than
activities that support an individual.
Activist Mothering
Activist mothering moves the labor of
mothering from an individual to a community
based pursuit.

Activist mothering allows us to mother in

spaces larger than our lives.
Hip Hop Youth Summit
Youth Writing Workshop
Cutting Edge Youth Summit
Empowerment of the Mother

Mothers gain power and prestige through

their daughters achievements.

Africana mothering practices are confirmed

and reaffirmed.
A Cycle of Success
Mothers who engage in communal
mothering impact their daughters
Daughters successes bring prestige to
Daughters also engage in mothering work
through community based activism
Laboring Positions: Black Women, Mothering
and the Academy
The Womanist/Feminist Pedagogy Group
Giovanni Dortch
Candice Bledsoe
Photo credit: Hampton University
Thank You!