Nia Flowers Steinfeld
Fruits of Mamma’s Labor: Exploring Black Motherwork and Education in Los Angeles
Black mothers have continuously battled discrimination at the hands of racial capitalism and dehumanization from hegemonic ideologies rooted in anti-blackness that have shaped social science research, public policy, and the American imagination. The term Black mother is haunted by a history of racialized colonialism, in which enslaved women were denied maternal privileges while their wombs served as exploited and neglected spaces of productive and reproductive labor. The afterlife of slavery and the cultural myths of problematic Black families created in its wake have strategically characterized Black women as pathological. Intersectional theories grounded in Black feminism have contested pathological portrayals of Black women, while empirical work on Black families has reframed and contextualized Black motherhood. Building from Black feminist frameworks on racially gendered labor, this study utilizes interviews and photovoice to analyze the ways Black mothers perform motherwork while navigating their children’s educational institutions. I focus on how Black women negotiate their work relationships after becoming mothers, illuminating their matriculation into performing motherwork, and how they view the educational responsibilities of motherwork while raising children in Los Angeles.