F20 Black Atlantic: Resources, Pedagogy, and Scholarship on the 18th Century Black Atlantic

Catherine C Saunders : A Sweet and Sour Syllabus

The Lemonade virtual syllabus betrays the tangible affect of a resonant cultural artifact. Though employed as a feminist piece, Lemonade archives a significant page in the black female trajectory in America. Particularly, it illuminates the sweetness and sourness of black femininity with a colorist undertone. Particularly, Lemonade, the project’s container, evokes and centralizes yellow, a colloquial term used to represent a black woman of Beyonce’s hue. Moreover, the project’s titles evoke a symbolism and cultural resonance pertinent and largely esoteric to the black female experience.

Though each text speaks to a significant page in black femininity, the proposed syllabus implements a rich array of resources, that my critique posits as consummating their full potential if grouped by song title aligned with a theme. For example, I was happy to see “Becky with the Good Hair” included as a quotation, but too add to this priest, I posit the quotation as a formidable means to implement as a critical discourse.

There are a few things that must be kept in mind with a course plan like the provided Beyonce syllabus . For starters, education has always been tailored toward the esteem of the African-adjacent. Because America is a space systemically and socially in favor of anyone who is not black, specifically “blacks” who are not in the US by choice, it is imperative to note that delineating the trajectory of a socially and systemically subjugated group is to be done with carefully curated intention. There have been far too many courses and syllabi that aim to “explain” the black woman but fail to remove the black woman from the caricature of the white imaginary. Specifically, too many contemporary efforts to include what has for so long been excluded, depict the black woman as a tragic societal figure befallen by physical ugliness, abandonment, hyper sexuality, amongst other caricatured attributes. These images falsely posit whiteness as a privilege and blackness as “the curse as ham.” It is imperative that syllabi seeking to implement or regard black female femininity as a scholarly terrain exhibits all the cultural richness that is black culture and hold the anti-black society that birthed black abjection accountable without patronizingly victimizing the black collective.

The syllabus also brings into question whether teaching a black female course should proceed with the intention to inform others or, take on the rare and necessary task to regard the black woman as the ideal student and curate a syllabus with this in mind. The implemented syllabus  could certainly go either way, but seems to prioritize the black woman. It is imperative for a syllabus about an experience endured by only a small percentage of the country be presented as something to be critically encountered rather than consumed.

Sample, Suggestions for Contemplation:

Lesson Lesson Plan


Core Objective: To equip the black female student with the critical imagination necessary to redefine  her own experience




  • To showcase and thread significant pages within the black female experience


  • To implement and facilitate a lesson plan specifically designed for the black female student who may or may not have evolved into womanhood, or a womanist/feminist identity


  • To present discourse that expands the black female experience past victimhood and into a deserving victory


  • To proceed with the intention to enlighten but without a set picture of what that looks like.


  • To group the course into themes that do not capture the black female experience in its entirety but that acts a bridge to discourses essential to engendering new perspectives and insights


  • To inspire the black female student to be critical of her own experience and hone discernment in distinguishing between black female caricature and truth, in all its diversity


  • To cast pillars in black female conceptualization from color to hair texture as an imagined reality as opposed to biological truths


  • To detach the black female from broken clock syndrome.


Possible Course Themes



The Color Purple, Alice Walker

A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry

Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan

The Wedding, Dorothy West


“Becky with the Good Hair:” Black Women and Aesthetical Literacy

The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison

God Help the Child, Toni Morrison

The Blacker the Berry, Wallace Thurman

Boy, Snow, Bird: A Novel, Helen Oyeyemi

Daughters of the Dust, Julie Dash



Beloved, Toni Morrison

The Hills of Hebron, Sylvia Wynter

Ain’t I A Woman, bell hooks

In Search of Our Mother’s Garden, Alice Walker

Kindred, Octavia Butler

The Salt Eaters, Toni Cade Bambara

Sula, Toni Morrison



Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Wilson/Linda Brent

A Taste of Power, Elaine Brown