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Strange Fruit: After 18 Years, Hip-Hop Feminist Joan Morgan Is Still Breaking It Down


1999 was the age of the video vixen, and feminists were decrying the objectification of women in hip-hop imagery and lyrics.

That same year, Joan Morgan published "When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down," her groundbreaking book examining the complexities of life as a black woman, feminist, and music lover in the age of hip-hop.

This year, the book turns 18. Last month, a new edition was published with a forward by Brittney Cooper and an afterword by Treva Lindsey. It's also just been released as an audio book, read by actor Joy Bryant. It's clearly a work with enduring relevance, but its initial reception wasn't all positive.

"There were a lot of elder feminist stateswomen who basically just dismissed the book as, 'this person is not really a feminist because if she was really a feminist, she couldn't possibly love hip-hop,'" Morgan says.

"So finding my tribe years later — the people who actually find value in the book, has been such a precious gift to me. It's incredible to me that it still has a place in the culture."

One member of that tribe is our own Kaila Story, who first read "Chickenheads" as a college senior.

"It made me confirm that I belong in feminism," Doc says. "That I am a feminist. That I can bring my whole self, my entire self, to the professoriate, to my classes, and to the work that I do."

Joan Morgan joins us this week to talk about what's changed in black feminism between now and 1999 — and what still needs to.

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects. Email Laura at lellis@lpm.org.

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