Media platforms frequently report on “Black Lives Matter” in order to raise awareness about institutional racism. However, these platforms often focus on African American male teenagers (Trayvon Martin in a hoodie and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” for Michael Brown). Noticeably absent are images of Black girls. As a response to these male-focused images, the hashtag movement #BlackGirlsMatter draws attention to the injustices Black girls face. Unfortunately, the reach of this hashtag movement is limited; only select outlets mention the significance of #BlackGirlsMatter. This limited reach is problematic given that many public schools—where many Black girls experience oppression—are still unaware of the institutional racism within their own policies and procedures. In order for educators and children to become cognizant of the systematic oppression at the intersection of race and gender, they must read texts that clearly align with cultural theories, such as Critical Race Theory and Black feminism, in order to potentially empower young readers. This article demonstrates how Black feminist theory can provide a useful framework for exploring the nuances of children’s novels, using Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer trilogy as an example. One Crazy Summer (Amistad, New York, 2010), P.S. Be Eleven (Amistad, New York, 2013), and Gone Crazy in Alabama (2015) contain representations of Black women and girls that assist readers in recognizing and naming systematic racism and sexism so that they may become more aware of paths for social justice.
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Mary J. Henderson, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at Morgan State University, an HBCU, in Baltimore, Maryland. Currently, she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in adolescent literature and ethnic American literature.
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Henderson, M.J. Black Girls Matter: Black Feminisms and Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer Trilogy. Child Lit Educ 50, 431–448 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583-018-9358-6
- Children’s literature
- African American literature
- Historical fiction
- Black feminism
- Black Panthers