Skip to content

Lessons in Black Feminist Criminology: Disrupting State and Sexualized violence against Women and Girls #GrabTheEmpowerment

December 9, 2016

Nishaun T. Battle, Ph.D.


Audre Lorde


Intended Audience: High School Students

Overview: Black Feminist Criminology, a theoretical framework developed by Dr. Hillary A. Potter, a leading scholar in Criminology is used to contextualize this lesson plan. This theory in particular examines the intersection of Black Feminism, punishment, victimization, and crime. In particular, this lesson plan intends to identify ways to create safe spaces for groups targeted by the President-elect explicitly and implicitly verbalized in his speeches. Throughout the presidential election, the use of violent misogynistic language used against women was expressed and sanctioned by Donald Trump. A precarious hike of verbal and physical attacks after the announcement of the President-elect grounded in Trump’s racist, sexist, and classist views against the global majority of the world (comprised of people of color), in addition to people with disabilities, immigrants, LGBTQIA communities, Muslim communities, and the poor, has led to an increased fear for the safety of the lives of many. Donald Trump managed to offend practically every group in this country, except for white supremacists. This lesson plan will explore the ways in which women and girls of color have been victimized by both state sanctioned and micro intimate spaces. Drawing from bell hooks book, “Feminism is for Everybody”, this lesson plan is designed to address white male imperialist, capitalist, patriarchy, and how it is situated in social institutions to promote violence against women and girls. All genders have the responsibility to stand up for justice against insidious and unwarranted attacks in a society that prides itself on being a democratic state. Further, the objective of this lesson plan is to identify the ways that gender is defined and policed through socially constructed scripts and daily interactionism on a structural and individual basis that produces and reproduces oppression. In examining the ways women and girls are specifically victimized as a result of race, class, and gender, the aim is to identify how the classroom in particular, is used as a site and space for critical pedagogy for students to understand their place in reading the social world through Black feminism. Specifically, the readings grounded at the intersection of Black Feminist Thought and the criminal legal system is employed to explore how women and girls have historically and contemporarily navigated social inequalities by deepening their critical consciousness, to create a vision for a just and transformative society, while crafting specific ideas of disrupting racial, class, and gendered inequality through intentional justice related strategies to promote social and legal justice.

Scope and Sequence: This lesson plan will explore how Black feminist criminology is understood, analyzed, and enacted through lived experiences in the social world. Often studies grounded in feminism are not contextualized in high school studies. As a result, critical knowledge that should be embedded in each major academic subject, leaves a void in how text can be read, what questions can and should be asked, and what types of methodologies can be employed in the classroom for holistic learning. Students will explore feminist readings and specific criminological feminist readings exploring victimization. Main texts that will be used will include “Intersectionality and Criminology: Disrupting and Revolutionizing Studies of Crime: New Directions in Critical Criminology” (Hillary Potter), “Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics” (hooks), “Words of Fire: An Anthology of African American Thought” (Beverly Guy-Sheftall), and “When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America ” (Paula Giddings). This lesson plan can be modified by time and days depending on the schedule of the class.

National Themes of Social Studies:

  1. Culture- Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of culture and cultural diversity.
  2. Individual Development and Identity- Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of individual development and identity.
  3. Individuals, Groups, and Institutions- Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of interactions among individuals, groups, and institutions.
  4. Power, Authority, and Governance- Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of how people create, interact with, and change structures of power, authority, and governance.
  5. Civic Ideals and Practices- Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of the ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic.


  1. Discuss how Donald Trump can be discussed through feminism.
  2. Create collaborations to create a visual illustration of a transformative society for all people to live in.
  3. To synthesize the texts read to understand how feminism intersects with the criminal legal system through criminality and victimization.
  4. To write reflective arguments on the role of feminism in helping to ground and raise critical consciousness related to social, political, and legal issues in society.
  5. To engage in readings, music, social media, and video clips to comprehend how individual/intimate violence is often a reflection of institutional violence.
  6. Preparation: Students should be experienced in creative and academic writing, working in small groups, and facilitating individual and group presentations. Students are expected to respectfully engage in dialogue with their peers, raise critical reflective questions of their own, and to interrogate the readings to find their positionality in the social world grounded in Black feminism. However, students are not expected to be fully integrated experts at feminism, but rather gaining a deeper insight into how society can be read, understood, and reimagined when applying feminism as a theoretical concept and methodology. Students will need an understanding of how race, class, and gender operate in reproducing structural and individual oppression in society.

Conclusions from Executive Summary to The Courage to Question, ed. Musil:

  1. How does women’s studies affect students as individuals?
  2. Does women’s studies foster social responsibility?
  3. Are students in women’s studies encouraged to think for themselves?
  4. Does women’s studies heighten an awareness of difference and diversity?

Essential Questions:

  1. How are students understanding their positionality in Black feminism studies?
  2. How do students define empowerment?
  3. What are strategies for creating more just communities?
  4. What ways are they both privileged and oppressed by white, male patriarchy in society and within their communities?

DAY ONE: Reading bell hooks


(15 minutes)

  1. Discuss the different definitions of feminism since its conceptual inception. Briefly explore the main ideas grounded in Black feminism and its relevance and importance for addressing social inequality and injustice. Discuss the weekly lesson plan for students and expectations of classroom interaction and submission of work. The teacher will review the main points in Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks to ground the lesson plan.
  2. Students will write a brief summary of their thoughts about feminism and if they identify as a feminist.


(75 minutes)

  1. Students will take a privilege quiz based on race, class, and gender in order to promote diverse groups. This can be created by the teacher to gain a sense of cross-cultural experiences rooted in intersectionality. (5 minutes)
  2. Students will break into six groups compromised of 5-6 students and they will engage in independent reading on their assigned three chapters. Students will create discussion questions for their peers to have a large group discussion for the following day. Students will decide who will lead the discussion question for the following day and who will introduce and provide a brief synopsis of their selected YouTube video.
  3. Students will locate a video on YouTube that best illustrates the main points of assigned chapters. The video should be no longer than 3 minutes. (Will be assigned for homework if time does not permit to be completed in class)

DAY TWO: Applying bell hooks as a theoretical concept and methodology


(90 minutes)

  1. Teacher will briefly lead a discussion with the entire classroom, generating feelings, reflections, and concepts warranting further explanation from any student.
  2. Students will reconvene in their assigned groups and will lead an interactive dialogue based on their discussion questions for the larger classroom.
  3. Students will show their selected YouTube video to students and will briefly discuss their purpose of identified video.

DAY THREE: Understanding Intersectional Criminology through Photovoice


(90 minutes)

  1. Students will critically read and interrogate Ch. 5 “Revolutionizing criminology: the societal impact of intersectional criminology” in Hillary A. Potter’s book, “Intersectionality and Criminology: Disrupting and Revolutionizing Studies of Crime.” Explain to students that they are to engage the text as critical readers. In doing so, they are to examine main points that identify institutional oppression rooted in Black Feminism. They will convene in their small groups and engage in dialogue on main points they found most interesting. They are to consider what points are missing from the literature and to fill the gaps in that literature with their assigned homework task. (Described at the end of this day’s lesson plan). In practicing this approach, they should consider the following questions.
  • How does the author define intersectional criminology?
  • What examples are provided to describe the act of revolutionizing criminology?
  • How does Black feminism intersect with legal injustice in the criminal legal system?
  • Name the ways in which people are complicit in the reproduction of state and intimate violence and identify possible reasons of this reproduction.
  1. Students will watch the brief video by Dr. Lena Palacios, “Shadowboxing: A Chicana’s Journey from Vigilante Violence to Transformative Justice
  • Students will take independent notes on what may have resonated with them the most based on this short documentary.
  • Students will identify the shift in consciousness by the visual author of this video in adopting a transformative approach to social justice.
  1. Homework assignment (Photovoice): Students will gather intergenerational photos from family members exploring various social movements during key political and social moments in the United States. They will make copies of photos, as to preserve their familial memories. Students will be intentional in gathering information across generations in their family, including parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Students are also able to gather this information through interviews and artistic expression if there are no pictures available. As such, students are also able to gather information from elders in their neighborhood and varying social institutions in their communities if they are unable for any reason to gather from biological family members. Students are to select a reading from the suggested reading list of Black feminist work to ground their visual interpreted work in. The main textbooks for this will be any selected reading from “When and Where I Enter” and “Words of Fire.”
  2. Students will create a short documentary, no longer than 10 minutes that includes this photovoice story that is grounded in the CVS model (Consciousness, Vision, and Strategy). This documentary will explore their understanding of Black feminism and their vision of what a transformative society would look like based upon their intergenerational investigation of resistance, self-determination, and activism.
  • Students should consider how the intergenerational issue was addressed and reproduced in a familial and institutional context.
  • Students should identify the ways in which self-care was incorporated into family lives, while navigating racism, sexism, and classism.
  • Students should gather information that identifies the ways sustainable communities were created and maintained.



(90 minutes)

  1. Students will present their documentary and lead a brief classroom discussion on the ways in which they understand how white supremacy as an ideology and action has operated through their familial generations and is reproduced in their lives.
  2. Homework Assignment: Students will write a 5-page double page reflective essay based on their understanding and raised critical consciousness of institutional oppression and their location, if any, in Black feminist criminology. They will explore the ways they plan to empower themselves as individuals and to disrupt institutional violence and oppressive regimes structurally. This paper should be grounded in the texts used throughout the week.



Bibliography and Suggested Readings:

Barlow, Jameta. N. 2016. #WhenIFellInLoveWithMyself: Disrupting the Gaze and Loving Our Black Womanist Self As An Act of Political Warfare. Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism 15 (1) 205-217.

Battle, Nishaun T. 2016. From Slavery to Jane Crow to Say Her Name: An Intersectional Examination of Black Women and Punishment. Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism 15, (1) 109-136.

Giddings, Paula. 1984. When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Gist, Conra D. 2016. A Black Feminist Interpretation: Reading Life, Pedagogy, and Emilie. Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism 15 (1) 245-268.

hooks, bell. 2000. Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics. Brooklyn: NY: South End Press.

Potter, Hillary. 2006. “An Argument for Black Feminist Criminology: Understanding African American Women’s Experiences with Intimate Partner Abuse Using an Integrated Approach.” Feminist Criminology: 1 (2) 106-124.

Potter, Hillary. 2015. Intersectionality and Criminology: Disrupting and Revolutionizing Studies of Crime: New Directions in Critical Criminology. London and New York: Routledge.

Whitehead, Karsonya, Wise. 2016. Them Girls Sure Got History: Notes on Becoming a Forensic Herstorical Investigator. Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism 15 (1) 269-289.

Sheftall, Beverly. 1995. Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought. New York: The New Press.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 11, 2016 4:21 pm

    This is dope. I shared on my Twitter page @Blackfeminisms

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: