Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Dr. Donyale Padgett


Intersectional research that focuses on the experiences and representations of Black women should place emphasis on examining the communication of resistance. This dissertation builds upon the work of Womanist (Walker, 1983) and Black Feminist scholars (Collins, 1991; Harris-Perry, 2011) in order to identify and interrogate the harmful systemic nature of various stereotypes and controlling images of Black women. These controlling images historically include representations such as the Mammie, Sapphire, Jezebel, tragic mulatto, and even newer images like the angry black woman. Through a close reading of Josephine Baker’s “Danse Sauvage" performance, the research points to modern day examples of when privileged Black women utilize their platforms in the name of activism. To be specific, the analysis codes self-definitive demonstrations by Michelle Obama, Viola Davis, and Beyoncé Knowles. This project stresses that Black women must respond to these mis/representations through what Patricia Hill Collins (2004) identifies as a process of “self-defining.” By self-defining, we center Black womanhood as an epistemological site, advancing Black women’s social movements, and creating a stronger body of knowledge about the impact and importance of Black women’s experiences in a system that often generates knowledge from a European patriarchal perspective. From the analysis at least two themes were identified congruently from all women; they include authenticity and power in sisterhood. Lastly, the newly identified image of the Beautiful Black Boss Lady emerged. Ultimately, this reflexive research approach of centering ourselves and our experiences as Black women further strengthens and (re)establishes the importance of Black Feminist Thought as a valid epistemological approach to communication studies research.