Ruth Nicole Brown is Associate professor of Gender and Women’s Studies (50%), Education Policy, Organization and Leadership (50%), The Center for African Studies (0%), The Department of Theatre (0%) and most recently Art + Design (0%). She earned a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor in Political Science with graduate certificates in World Performance Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies. Selected a Conrad Humanities Scholar (2018-23), Brown's research, community engagement, and artistic practice mutually reinforce the other; she is at her best when disciplinary norms are disrupted in favor of creating ideas that swing.
Black Feminism and Black Girlhood
Black Girlhood Studies & Girls Studies
Critical Youth Culture and Studies
Brown’s research documents and analyzes Black girls’ lived experiences and the practical ways they make Black girlhood with those who love them. In, 2006 Brown founded Saving Our Lives Hear Our Truths (SOLHOT), a collective space to celebrate Black girlhood for the purpose of liberation. To date it remains her most cherished and consistent practice of meeting Black girls face to face and heart to heart. SOLHOT has received support from campus grants, Champaign-Urbana institutions, and those who actively participate. A Whiting Foundation Public Engagement Fellow (2019-2020), Brown’s Black Girl Genius Week (BGGW) exhausts the rituals of SOLHOT to widen the cipher and experience the imaginative capabilities and artistry that only occurs when Black girls and women are together as homegirls. BGGW has occurred in central Illinois (2014 & 2016) and in 2019 will take place in Chicago, IL, Columbia, SC, and Champaign, IL.
According to Brown, there is something about Black girlhood that is extremely experimental and that quality of innovation guides her artmaking. The desire to play with movement, sound, images, and words against the assumable or knowable figure of the Black girl is very much a part of her creative process. Aesthetic influences are many: the everydayness of survival, amateur impulses, do it yourself cultures, and hip hop. In many ways, SOLHOT functions as workshop and studio and it is there where she has formally developed a sense of poetic timing, preference for what is good, and how to create collectively. Ruth Nicole Brown is in a band called We Levitate with bandbaes Dr. Porshe Garner, Jessica Robinson, and Dr. Blair E. Smith and has devised and/or performed in several SOLHOT shows including "The Mixtape Remix" (2011), and "Check In!" (2010). Brown's performance work also includes, "The Rest is Work" (2018), and "Thank you, for the Blood" (2020).
Brown has authored two books, Hear Our Truths: The Creative Potential of Black Girlhood (University of Illinois Press, 2013) and Black Girlhood Celebration: Toward A Hip Hop Feminist Pedagogy (Peter Lang, 2009). She co-edited Disrupting Qualitative Inquiry: Possibilities and Tensions in Educational Research with R. Carducci and C. Kuby (Peter Lang, 2014) and Wish To Live: The Hip Hop Feminist Pedagogy Reader with C. Kwaye (Peter Lang, 2012).
You can find Ruth Nicole Brown outside, currently working on a multi-media project, Black Girl Nature which takes up ecowomanist and Black feminist preoccupations with Black girls’ presence in nature. This project builds on the aforementioned fields and contributes to the digital arts and humanities of Black Girlhood Studies.
Ph.D., University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Political Science. Certified in Gender and Women’s Studies and World Performance Studies
M.A., University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Political Science
B.A., University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Political Science
EPS 590- Critical Arts-Based Ethnography
EPS 590- Black Feminism
EPS 590- Revolutionary Acts I and II: Arts, Education and Politics
GWS 260/HDFS 260/SOC 220- Introduction to Gender and Women’s Studies in the Social Sciences
GWS 382- Black Women in Popular Culture
GWS 395- Black Girlhood
GWS 462- Hip Hop Feminism: Theory and Practice
GWS490/AFRO498/ EPS 590- The Politics and Poetics of African American Girlhood
GWS 495- Hip Hop Feminism
GWS 495- Hip Hop Feminism
Additional Campus Affiliations
Associate Professor, Gender and Women's Studies
Associate Professor, Education Policy, Organization and Leadership
Brown, R. N. (2014). Hear Our Truths: The Creative Potential of Black Girlhood. (Dissident Feminisms). University of Illinois Press. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt3fh5xc
Brown, R. N. (2008). Black Girlhood Celebration: Toward a Hip-Hop Feminist Pedagogy. (Mediated Youth; Vol. 5). Peter Lang.
Brown, R. N., & Kwakye, C. J. (Eds.) (2012). Wish to Live: The Hip-hop Feminism Pedagogy Reader. (Educational Psychology: Critical Pedagogical Perspectives; Vol. 3). Peter Lang.
Brown, R. N. (2019). Pleasure verses: A five element set. American Quarterly, 71(1), 179-189. https://doi.org/10.1353/aq.2019.0011
Brown, R. N., Smith, B. E., Robinson, J. L., & Garner, P. R. (2018). Doing digital wrongly. American Quarterly, 70(3), 395-416. https://doi.org/10.1353/aq.2018.0028
Brown, R. N. (2016). Theorizing Narrative Discrepancies of Black Girlhood. In S. R. Mazzarella (Ed.), The Mediated Youth Reader (pp. 32-48). Peter Lang.
Brown, R. N. (2015). A Performative Account of Black Girlhood. In T. L. Gosa, & E. Nielson (Eds.), The Hip Hop & Obama Reader (pp. 227-242). Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199341801.003.0013
Brown, R. N. (2015). A Praise song for Johnnie. In V. E. Evans-Winters, & B. L. Love (Eds.), Black Feminism in Education: Black Women Speak Back, Up, and Out (pp. 9-24). (Black Studies and Critical Thinking; Vol. 69). Peter Lang.