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Professor and MSNBC Host Melissa Harris-Perry Talks Stereotypes and Politics at Spelman Share a Spelman College Press Release


Media Contacts:

Terrilyn Simmons
(404) 270-5822

ATLANTA (Feb. 4, 2013)
-- Professor, political analyst and author, Melissa Harris-Perry, Ph.D., will examine the personal and political effects of stereotypes on Black women when she lectures on the theme "More than a Vote: Women’s Struggle for Full Citizenship." Part of the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Distinguished Lecture Series, Harris-Perry will delve deeper into the issues raised in her book Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America (Yale 2011), where she explores the impact of negative race and gender images on the political perspective, participation and rights of Black women. Free and open to the public, her lecture takes place Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. in the Cosby Academic Center Auditorium at Spelman. Harris-Perry will also sign copies of her book.

“Last week three professors from three different disciplines (political science, english, and history) shared with other faculty how they each used the book in their individual classes -- one text with different points of entry,” said Mona Phillips, Ph.D., professor of sociology and director of the Teaching Resource and Research Center.  “However, the common thread across disciplines is that Sister Citizen provides a frame for our students to think critically about their lives as Black women.”

In Sister Citizen, Harris-Perry argues that politics is not just about party affiliations, voting or ideology, but includes the struggle for “full recognition.” Her analysis explores how stereotypes about Black women - as oversexed and angry or as nurturing mammies - have led to them being ignored and marginalized politically. Using multiple methods of inquiry, she provides insight on how these stereotypes make it difficult for Black women to be their authentic selves and assert their rights in the political arena.

“In this compelling book, dazzling in its breadth and depth, Melissa Harris-Perry deploys the quantitative tools of the political scientist as expertly as she displays the qualitative methods of the literary and cultural critic,” notes Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Ph.D., founding director, Spelman College Women’s Research and Resource Center.Sister Citizen challenges readers to rethink the meaning of politics when it comes to the complex lives of African American women.”

A professor of political science and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South at Tulane University, Harris-Perry is the host of MSNBC's "Melissa Harris-Perry.” The show airs on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon EST. She also writes the monthly column, “Sister Citizen,” for The Nation magazine. In addition to hosting her own show, Harris-Perry provides expert commentary on U.S. elections, racial issues, religious questions and gender concerns for a variety of other media outlets.

Harris-Perry’s first book, Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought, won the 2005 W. E. B. Du Bois Book Award from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists and 2005 Best Book Award from the Race and Ethnic Politics Section of the American Political Science Association. Her academic research is published in scholarly journals and edited volumes and her interests include the study of African American political thought, black religious ideas and practice, and social and clinical psychology.

The Ida B. Wells-Barnett Distinguished Lecture Series is an interdisciplinary initiative established to stimulate reading and inquiry on contemporary issues that impact and influence women. Named for the well-known Black woman intellectual, Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931), the lecture series is organized through the College’s Teaching Resource and Research Center. Through the series students with a range of academic majors, but an interest in social justice and politics, explore the role of women, activism and scholarship.

About Spelman College
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a highly selective, liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, Ga., the college’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman; Sam’s Club CEO Rosalind Brewer; JPMorgan Chase Foundation President Kimberly Davis; former acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna President Audrey Forbes Manley; Harvard College Dean Evelyn Hammonds; author Pearl Cleage; and actress LaTanya Richardson Jackson. For more information, visit


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