Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 8-10-2019


One-year Embargo

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Kathy Glass

Committee Member

Faith Barrett

Committee Member

Laura Engel


intersectionality, African-American literature, celebrity studies, Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, Sissieretta Jones, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Pauline Hopkins


This study explores a diverse array of cultural texts, from literary representations to live performances, from the antebellum period to the contemporary moment,that highlight African-American women singer-celebrities navigating entertainment industries in the United States. Focusing on significant figures from the nineteenth century to the present including Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield (the first prominently known Black woman singer in the antebellum period), Pauline Hopkins (the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century novelist and soprano), Sissieretta Jones (a twentieth-century soprano singer), and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter (a contemporary singer-celebrity, songwriter, and producer), this study re-imagines the archive of Black singer-celebrities by centering Black women’s performances and voices to illuminate the diverse, nuanced representations of resistance and empowerment that Black women and singers enact, thus charting a new, nuanced historical trajectory of the development of Black women celebrities in American culture. I argue their multifaceted representations in various archives, from historical biographies and legal documents to social media and streaming services, provide ways of understanding the complex relationships between body and voice, performance, and social justice.

Building on the research of Uri McMillan, Daphne Brooks, Carla L. Peterson, and Nell Irvin Painter, who analyze African-American women’s creative resistance to systems of white supremacy and sexism, this project extends ongoing scholarly conversations in literary, musicological, and historical studies to develop a praxis of staging intersectionality: intentionally using various materials including song lyrics, photographs, letters, poetry, fiction, and non-fiction by and about African-American women singer-celebrities, to enrich and correct historical and popular cultural representations, and imagine new ways to approach American and celebrity studies.