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BHM Student Work Feature: "The Reclamation of Dignity: The History of Dance for Black Women in the United States" by Amy Abraham

In honour of Black History Month, the Department of History is featuring undergraduate student research that addresses Black histories, Black cultures, and Black experiences. Throughout the month of February, we will post the eight essays deemed to be the strongest of the many exceptional projects we received during our open submission call. We hope you enjoy reading our students’ work.

The Selection Committee would like to thank all of those who submitted their work for consideration.

Our second student project feature is an essay entitled "The Reclamation of Dignity: The History of Dance for Black Women in the United States," written by Amy Abraham for the upper-level History seminar course, HIST 473: Black Women in U.S. History.

Amy's paper explores the historical importance of dance for Black women in the United States. She argues that African American women, from the plantations to the Harlem Renaissance, have used dance as a method to protest their circumstances and foster community, pleasure, and agency for themselves.

As Amy explains,

[I] examine the erasure of culture caused by slavery, the unique discrimination experienced by working-class Black women throughout history, the politics of respectability, and how dance can be used as a method of activism. This study finds that the historical context for Black women’s dancing being labeled as “too promiscuous” is rooted in ideas of racism, sexism, and classism that can be traced back to the slave trade. The lack of scholarship on the topic denies Black women their historical due diligence and credit for the establishment of much of today’s popular culture.

Amy is a fourth-year History student at Queen's University.

Read the full essay here


Amy Abraham

Department of History, Queen's University

49 Bader Lane, Watson Hall 212
Kingston ON K7L 3N6




Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.