In Conversation: Aneeka Ayanna Henderson and Tera W. Hunter

Written by
California African American Museum
Oct. 7, 2021

In "Veil and Vow: Marriage Matters in Contemporary African American Culture," Aneeka Ayanna Henderson places familiar, often politicized, questions about Black marriage in conversation with a rich cultural archive that includes fiction by Terry McMillan and Sister Souljah, music by Anita Baker, and films such as "The Best Man." Seeking to move beyond simple assessments of marriage as "good" or "bad" for African Americans, Henderson critically examines popular and influential texts alongside legislation such as the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and the Welfare Reform Act, which masked true sources of inequality with crisis-laden myths about African American family formation. Providing a new opportunity to grapple with old questions, including who can be a citizen, a "wife," and "marriageable," "Veil and Vow" makes clear just how deeply marriage still matters in African American culture. Henderson, who is Associate Professor of Sexuality, Women's, and Gender Studies at Amherst College, discussed her latest work on April 21, 2021 with Tera W. Hunter, Edwards Professor of American History and Professor of African-American Studies at Princeton University.