LaKisha Michelle Simmons is the author of Crescent City Girls: The Lives of Young Black Women in Segregated New Orleans (2015), which won the Southern Association for Women Historians' Julia Cherry Spruill Prize and received an honorable mention for the Association of Black Women Historians' Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Book Award. She has published articles in American Quarterly, Gender & History, The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, and Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature. Simmons is an assistant professor of history and women's studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she earned her doctorate. Before coming back to Michigan, she taught at Davidson College and at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Simmons is also a co-creator and -organizer of the Global History of Black Girlhood conference, which convened at the University of Virginia in 2017 and from which she is currently coediting an anthology. She is also currently writing a book on the history of black motherhood called "Segregated Motherhood," which explores reproductive health and histories of love and loss in black families, and beginning a new research project on black women's labor in rural Louisiana since Reconstruction.
This talk traces the "afterlife of slavery" by investigating narratives of infant loss in African American women's lives. Through an analysis of oral histories collected in the U.S. South in the 1930s-ex-slave interviews-- LaKisha Michelle Simmons details a black maternal embodiment that highlights a connection to the enslaved past, a "cultural familiarity" with death and mourning, and a need to claim loss as an act of radical black mothering. Simmons suggests that understanding the long history of loss and death of black infants and mothers helps contextualize African American women's current high rates of maternal mortality, miscarriage, premature and low-birth weight births, fibroids and endometriosis, African American infant's high rates of infant death and the need for reproductive justice frameworks.