Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



The field of folklore in general, but specifically Africana folklore studies can be enriched by greater analyses of Black female contributions. In this study, I position folk music as the primary interest and chosen location to acknowledge Black women’s participation from beyond the margins. My inquiry reveals folk music as a lens into the myriad ways in which Black women have translated vernacular traditions into a means to deconstruct the master narrative as well as interrogate racist patriarchy. Specifically, this study examines how Nina Simone, Tracy Chapman, and Lauryn Hill have appropriated the folk aesthetic as a vehicle for social activism and cultural autobiography. I examine: 1) how folk music functions as a strategic discursive space for politically conscious creative expression and 2) how folk music functions communally as cultural autobiography/autoethnography and as a tool for community or nation-building. Situated at the forefront of my textual analysis are three women performers, Simone, Chapman, and Hill, whom I regard as most emblematic of a “radical Black folk consciousness.” I extensively read these women’s performative, personal, and lyrical acts using a multi-layered theoretical framework, including but not limited to: Feminism/Womanism, Cultural Autobiography Studies, Black Nationalism, and Marxism. This discussion builds upon and extends the scholarship of autobiography and folklore as tools of subversion as well as recurring themes in African American female rhetorical practices.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Angeletta Gourdine