Black Soul: A Feminist Genealogy of Feeling from the Colombian Exchange to Black Lives Matter


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


This dissertation is a genealogy of how black folks use soul to endure an anti-black world. Through archival research on soul food and soulful home aesthetics, this project addresses W.E.B. Du Bois’s persistent question "how does it feel to be a problem?" by exploring how black women’s labor has been central to black endurance. This genealogical analysis, methodogically grounded in work with a large historical archive, analyzes black women's tactics of collective survival from Columbus’s encounter with West Africans in 1482 to the emergence of Black Lives Matter in the present. The primary thesis of the project argues that black women have historically used soul, another word for collective black feeling, to produce an alternative ethics of endurance found in the last place anyone ever thought to look—in the practices of black domesticity—that cannot be translated but only sensed.