From Blues to Beyoncé

A Century of Black Women’s Generational Sonic Rhetorics

By Alexis McGee

Subjects: African American Studies, Cultural Studies, Music, Women's Studies, Popular Culture, Education
Series: SUNY series in Feminist Criticism and Theory, SUNY series in Black Women's Wellness
Hardcover : 9781438496498, 240 pages, February 2024
Paperback : 9781438496504, 240 pages, August 2024
Expected to ship: 2024-08-02

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Table of contents

Preface: A Tale of Two Stories: Listening to Liminal Spaces to Listen to Myself

1. Sonic Sharecropping

2. “Strange Fruit” Sonic Rhetorics

3. Queer(ing) Sound, Time, and Grammar: Black Women’s Methods for Generative Prosodic Rhetoric

4. Audible Advice, or Mentorship in Sound: A Black (Feminist) Practice of Care through Sonic Rhetorics

5. Reverb: A Coda for a Quiet, Undisputed Dignity in Sound


Explores how Black women have continually used sound to convey stories and forge community across generations.


From Blues to Beyoncé amplifies Black women's ongoing public assertions of resistance, agency, and hope across different media from the nineteenth century to today. By examining recordings, music videos, autobiographical writings, and speeches, Alexis McGee explores how figures such as Ida B. Wells, Billie Holiday, Ruth Brown, Queen Latifah, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Janelle Monáe, and more mobilize sound to challenge antiBlack discourses and extend social justice pedagogies. Building on contemporary Black feminist interventions in sound studies and sonic rhetorics, From Blues to Beyoncé reveals how Black women's sonic acts transmit meaning and knowledge within, between, and across generations.

Alexis McGee is Assistant Professor of Research in the School of Journalism, Writing, and Media at the University of British Columbia.


"Alexis McGee insightfully employs a Black feminist and decolonial framework to examine both the music industry's long history of exploiting Black women's sonic labor and the ways Black women music artists combat these modes of exploitation and erasure. Her rich textual and historical analysis reveals how Black women use music and vocals to forward a liberatory pedagogy that educates and instructs their audiences in how to navigate and thrive in the midst of America's antiblack ways." — Ersula J. Ore, author of Lynching: Violence, Rhetoric and American Identity

"With its creativity, scope, and clear investment in care, From Blues to Beyoncé illustrates why and how music continues to operate as a life-giving medium and resource for Black women. This book will inspire important conversations." — Tamika L. Carey, author of Rhetorical Healing: The Reeducation of Contemporary Black Womanhood