College of Liberal Arts

Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style and the Global Politics of Soul

Monday Nov 20, 2017 3:00 PM | Gordon-White Building (GWB) 2.206

Lecture Series: Diaspora Talk Series

Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style and the Global Politics of Soul

From the civil rights and Black Power era of the 1960s through antiapartheid activism in the 1980s and beyond, black women have used their clothing, hair, and style not simply as a fashion statement but as a powerful tool of resistance. Whether using stiletto heels as weapons to protect against police attacks or incorporated African-themed designs into everyday wear, these fashion-forward women celebrated their identities and pushed for equality. 


Tanisha C. Ford is Associate Professor of Africana Studies and History at the University of Delaware. She is the author of Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul (UNC Press, 2015), which narrates the powerful intertwining histories of the Black Freedom movement and the rise of the global fashion industry. Liberated Threads won the 2016 Organization of American Historians’ Liberty Legacy Foundation Award for best book on civil rights history.

She studies social movement history, feminist issues, material culture, popular culture and entertainment, and fashion, beauty, and body politics. Her public writing and cultural commentary has been featured in diverse media outlets and publications including the New York Times, the Root, the New YorkerEbonyNPR: Code SwitchFusionNews OneNew York Magazine: The CutYahoo! StyleVibe VixenFeministing, the Journal of Southern HistoryNKA: Journal of Contemporary African ArtThe Black Scholar, and New York City’s HOT 97.

A dynamic speaker, she has been invited to give lectures and serve as a roundtable discussant at institutions around the world including: the Brooklyn Museum, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Delaware Historical Society, Parson’s The New School for Design, Ritsumeikan University (Japan), the Black Europe Summer School (Netherlands), and The University of London.

She is currently working on two new book projects. The first is a history of black style, from Black Power to #BLackLivesMatter. The second centers on the black women activist-socialites of the mid-twentieth century who hosted lavish galas, fashion shows, and pageants in cities such as New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Paris, and Berlin to raise funds for the burgeoning Black Freedom movement.

Her research has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Ford Foundation, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Center for Black Music Research, among others.

She lives in New York City.

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