HomeWeaving the diasporic Matrix: the legacy of black women in the Americas

HomeWeaving the diasporic Matrix: the legacy of black women in the Americas

Weaving the diasporic Matrix: the legacy of black women in the Americas

Une matrice diasporique à tisser : l’héritage des afrodescendantes aux Amériques

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Published on Monday, October 10, 2022


After many struggles for a better inclusion of afro- descendant women in the Americas, the s saw the promotion of women such as Kamala Harris, Ketanji Brown Jackson, or Karine Jean- Pierre, to positions of power. The aim of this study day will be to highlight the efforts made by these women to rise to their position, in the world of work or arts, and to examine the circumstances which allowed their ascent. at last, we will ponder on the nature and dynamic of the link which unites them.



The rise to power of Afrodescendant women has been a powerful force for change in the Americas. For several centuries, these representatives of the Diaspora fought for their freedom, the right to vote, equity in the workplace, and then worked to improve the socio-economic, cultural and civic condition of their communities. By contributing to the gradual transformation ofthe nation, they have entered the field of political representation and action. Despite adversity, this union has risen to the challenge of "revolutionary humanism" (Lee, 2015) by weaving an inclusive web integrating other women into the matrix of power. Numerous examples of activism and solidarity thus dot the colonial and postcolonial history of the Americas and reveal the power of this chain of transmission linking Africa to the Greater Caribbean and continental America.

The beginnings of female Afro-diasporic agentivity were first manifested during the anti-slavery struggles. Among the names of the most famous heroines, we can mention, in a non-exhaustive way, those of the Angolan queen Nzinga Mbande, fierce opponent of the Portuguese slave traders, Victoria "Toya" Montou, ally of Dessalines during the Haitian revolution, Queen Nanny, national symbol of the Maroon resistance in Jamaica, Lumina Sophie and the mulatto Solitude, who were very involved in the insurrections declared in Martinique and Guadeloupe, or Harriet Tubman who fought all her life to offer freedom to the fugitive slaves in North America, SojournerTruth and, closer to us, Rosa Parks and Angela Davis. This list, which could go on and on, highlights the exemplary nature of the struggle for freedom and dignity waged by Afro- descendants both on African soil and in the nations of America. While they could not single- handedly overthrow the biopolitical system of the "New World" (Kamugisha, 2019: 166-200), all ofthese women worked directly, and significantly, to defend the rights and interests of their communities. In doing so, they have earned their credentials by showing that it is always possibleto make the best of adversity by weaving a matrix of solidarity and self-determination with the Diaspora.

It is no coincidence that a century after Britain abolished slavery in 1933, Mary McLeod Bethune created the Black Cabinet, formerly the Federal Council on Black Affairs, one of whose major accomplishments was to create employment opportunities for African Americans at a time when they had little access to them. More recently, in 2005, Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of State under the Bush administration, or Loretta Lynch, Attorney General under the Obama administration, have made members of their ethnic community proud. The influence of Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States, cannot be overlooked, as her career has been a model of professional strength and competence, and she has enhanced her credibility alongside her husband, Barack. The election of Joe Biden as President of the United States also seems to have played a catalytic role in the succession of appointments of black women to positions of power. We think first of all of the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, of Indian mother and Jamaican father, to whom the Cuban-American artist Maria-Magdalena Campos-Pons dedicated her performance When we gather, but also of the Martinican Karine Jean-Pierre, spokesperson at the White House, or of Ketanji Onyika Brown Jackson, the first black woman to be appointed as an associate justice at the Supreme Court in 2022.

In the field of diasporic identities, culture and politics are intimately linked (Hall, 1990). Such affinities often echo the issues of artists and writers committed to black female agency, as demonstrated by North American visual artist Kara Walker and Jamaican photographer-performer Renee Cox, through their radical explorations of race, gender, and sexuality, or illustrious novelists such as Jamaica Kincaid, Edwige Danticat, Maryse Condé, and Simone Schwartz-Bart, among many others, all of whom come from the Caribbean/American diaspora.

The field of arts and literature seems particularly conducive to generating such connections, as evidenced by the proliferation of publications that have appeared over the past two decades (Francis, 2016; Altamini et alii; 2018, Celestine, 2020; etc.) in which there are numerous examples of solidarity, even partnership, between authors of different nationalities. While such advances have been made mainly since the 1950s, we would like to emphasize the anteriority of sorority traditions such as the tangible heritage of patchwork through which solidarities of all kinds were woven as early as the 19th century in North America, in order to preserve the memory of the decolonial bond and emancipatory struggles in the Americas, will be emphasized.

Special attention to the signs of diasporic solidarity assembled over the years will therefore be able to be given to such junctions. It will undoubtedly form the touchstone of a future intellectual edifice whose theoretical and pragmatic foundations enter into a projective dynamic. To this end, panelists may wish to consider the following problematic avenues to develop their questioning: How did these Black women rise to such positions?

What sacrifices did they make to achieve them?

What are the nature and dynamics of the bond between them?

In their extension, our conference proposes to analyze the fascinating journey of these black women, in order to understand how they managed to climb the ladder of a society often hostile to their ascension, but whose codes they knew how to master in order to better conquer it.

Submission guidelines

Proposals for contributions, about twenty minutes long, must be sent in the form of an abstract (400 words maximum) to Dr. Nathalie Bouchaut and Mr. Yannick André

by November 10, 2022.

Notification of acceptance will be sent to contributors on November 25, 2022. The conference will be held at the University of the West Indies, Pôle Guadeloupe on Tuesday February 14, 2023, in honor of Black History Month. For further information, please send your requests to:

Dr. Nathalie Bouchaut, MCF: nathalie.bouchaut@univ-antilles.fr, Mr. Yannick André, MCF-A : yannick.andre@univ-antilles.fr

Scientific Committee

  • Dr. Gladys Francis, Prof. of African, French and Francophone Studies, Howard University,US.
  • Dr. Cheikh Nguirane, MCF in Anglophone Studies, University of the West Indies.
  • Dr. Nathalie Bouchaut, MCF in Anglophone Studies at the University of the West Indies.
  • Mr. Yannick andré, MCF-Associate, Anglophone Studies at the University of the West Indies.
  • Mrs. Violeta Nigro- Giunta, ATER, Anglophone Studies at the University of the West Indies.

Indicative bibliography

Altamini, Manal, Tal Dor & Nacira Guénif-Souilamas, Rencontres radicales. Pour des dialogues féministes décoloniaux, Éditions Cambourakis, 2018.

Archer, Melanie & Mariel Brown (eds.), See Me Here. A Survey of Contemporary Self-portraits from the Caribbean,

Berry Ian (ed.), Narratives of a Negress, exhibition catalog, The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, (January 18 - June 1, 2003), Boston, M.I.T. Press, 2003

Celestine, Audrey, Vies de combat : femmes, noires et libres, Paris, Editions de l'Iconoclaste, 2020. Cooper Brittney, Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower, St. Martin's Press, 2018.

Dance, Daryl, Honey, Hush! An Anthology of African American Women's Humor, New York: W. W. Norton, 1998.

Davis, Angela, Women, Race and Class, 1981.

Davis, Angela, Blues and Black Feminism - Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessy Smith, and Billie Holliday, translated from English (U.S.) by Julien Bordier, Paris, Éditions Libertalia, 2017.

Elder, Charity C., Power. The rise of black women in America: how black women embody the American dream, defy and win, Skyhorse, 2022.

Fanon, Frantz, Black Skin, White Masks, Paris Seuil, 1952.

Francis, Gladys M. (ed.), Amour, sexe, genre et trauma dans la Caraïbe francophone, Paris, L'Harmattan, 2016.

Hall, Stuart, "Cultural identity and diaspora", in Jonathan Rutherford (ed.), Identity, Community, Culture and Difference, London, Lawrence and Wishart, 1990, pp. 222-237.

Hall, Stuart, "Diaspora or the logic of cultural translation," Matrizes, 10, 2016 [2000], no. 3, pp. 47-58.

hooks, bell,

Jones, Martha S., How black women broke barriers, won the vote, and insisted on equality for all, basic books, 2020

Kamugisha, Aaron, Beyond Coloniality: Citizenship and Freedom in the Caribbean Intellectual Tradition, Indiana University Press, 2019.

Langer, Cassandra L., A Feminist Critique, New York, 1996.

Lee, Christopher J., Frantz Fanon: Toward a Revolutionary Humanism, Ohio University Press, 2015. Vergne Philippe (ed.), Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love, cat. expo, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, (October 11, 2007 - February 3, 2008), Minneapolis, WalkerArt Center, 2007.


  • Université des Antilles - Faculté Roger Toumson, Camp Jacob
    Saint-Claude, Guadeloupe (97120)

Event attendance modalities

Full on-site event


  • Thursday, November 10, 2022


  • diaspora, black women, America, Gender studies, decolonial studies


  • Nathalie Bouchaut
    courriel : nathalie [dot] bouchaut [at] univ-antilles [dot] fr
  • Yannick André
    courriel : yannick [dot] andre [at] univ-antilles [dot] fr

Information source

  • Nathalie Bouchaut
    courriel : nathalie [dot] bouchaut [at] univ-antilles [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Weaving the diasporic Matrix: the legacy of black women in the Americas », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, October 10, 2022, https://doi.org/10.58079/19m4

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