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.

Some Conclusions:

(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."

My ongoing research strives to continue to document the history of black women on guitar and its contemporary manifestations.

I continue to interview guitarists who self-identify as black women, exploring how they use the acoustic or electric guitar to construct and negotiate their music, identities, and bodies with the instrument + other issues that have emerged!

Like the dissertation, the research builds on and contributes to the important work of scholars, cultural critics, collectors, fans, and musicians such as Gayle Wald, D. Antoinette Handy, Ellie Hisama, Maria V. Johnson, Nancy Levine, Alan Lomax, Sally Placksin, Sherrie Tucker, Tim Duffy, Mavis Bayton, David Evans, Linda Dahl, William Ferris, George Mitchell, Paul and Beth Garon, to name a very, very few.

However, it was my exposure to the pointed work of Nancy V. Johnson, Gayle Wald, and Nancy Levine that really signaled something to me -- they sought to organize and construct a history focused on black women guitarists...specifically ! 


 Mashadi I. Matabane

afro-indie aesthetician

born-again southerner

bicultural black woman  (USA/RSA)

humanities evangelist

amateur community archivist

epic fan of black women's beaux artistry



I am not a musician. 

I earned a BA in Comparative Women’s Studies from Spelman College in Atlanta, GA; an MA in Magazine Journalism from NYU; and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Emory University in Atlanta.

In a past life, I worked on the editorial staff of three national women’s magazines (Ladies’ Home Journal, Lifetime, and Seventeen).