Though recognized as vocalists in U.S. popular culture, black women are generally overlooked as instrumentalists on the acoustic guitar and its more iconic counterpart—the electric guitar.
My study researched the existence of professional and amateur guitarists from the 19th to the 20th centuries.
I conducted oral histories with a range of contemporary black women musicians — discussing how they use the electric guitar in the construction, negotiation, and representation of their identity, self expression, and musicality.
(1) Black women have used acoustic and electric guitars to shape and transform their lives for social mobility, entertainment, artistry, recreation, and evangelizing — the instrument(s) serve as sources of distinction, personal achievement, employment, spiritual- and creative self-expression, as well as physical and emotional self-defense.
(2) Racism and sexism render black women musician's identities as hypervisible and invisible.
(3) As musicians they challenge dominant social meanings and fantasies about the electric guitar as culturally white and masculine;
(4) As musicians they demonstrate creative possibilities valuable to articulating an ongoing politics of location specific to black women
(5) As musicians they critique popular (often narrow and pathologized) representations of "the black female body."