Get in formation: a Lemonade syllabus

Many of us have been on an emotional rollercoaster since Beyoncé gifted us with her visual album Lemonade on April 23. Putting aside our concern for Bey and Jay’s marriage, the album itself is aurally and visually stunning and has received high critical acclaim. Lemonade premiered on HBO, and being especially proud of the part they played in its release, the network plans to submit Lemonade for Emmy consideration.

Lemonade delivers a powerful message of black female empowerment. Fusion’s Nicole Perkins writes that “‘Lemonade’ is not simply another ‘he done me wrong’ album or video. The relationship at the heart of the lyrics is a Trojan horse, opening to the shores of black womanhood as healing and salvation.” Lemonade has inspired black feminists to share their reading lists on social media using #LemonadeSyllabus, coined by Candice Benbrow of Rutgers University.

As we too are overcome with Lemonade-mania, we’ve gathered for you a selection of Lemonade coverage and related resources created by and for black women. Let’s do this!

Via HBO/Giphy.


  • Lemonade is currently available streaming on Tidal and to purchase on iTunes.


  • “Though Fashion (capital F) has been trying to claim Beyoncé since, well, forever, she is not its creature, and this album proves it.” writes Vanessa Friedman from
  • Marni Senofonte, Beyoncé’s stylist who oversaw the fashion in Lemonade, was interviewed by Joanna Nikas from
  • Beyoncé has graced the pages of Vogue on numerous occasions. Patricia Garcia,’s Culture Writer, has deconstructed the visuals of Lemonade for our benefit.


  • The Blood of Jesus (1941). This film is about the accidental shooting of a woman and of the faith in Jesus that brings her back. As she lies dying, her soul goes on a symbolic journey in which it rejects Hell for Zion, Satan for God, at the foot of the cross. When she awakens recovered, the choir of sisters and brothers from the church come in to sing and celebrate the miracle. The movie offers a glimpse into Southern Baptist life from a black perspective. It was written and directed by pioneering independent filmmaker Spencer Williams and made specifically for black audiences in segregated movie theaters. The Blood of Jesus remains one of the most highly regarded films of Williams’ career, and it was placed in the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1991. In 2008, SMU’s print of The Blood of Jesus was preserved with a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation. You can watch it online in the SMU Digital Collections, or check it out at the Hamon Arts Library.
  • Daughters of the Dust (1991). Written, directed, and produced by Julie Dash, this film tells the story of a large black family at the dawn of the 20th century as they prepare to move north from the Sea Islands off the coast of Georgia. You can check this film out at the Fondren Library Center.
  • Movies of color: Black Southern cinema: A portrait of independent African-American filmmaking (2002). Black films of the 1920s through mid-1950s are shown as a mirror of the Black experience of the time. They developed as a reaction to the way African Americans were depicted by filmmakers such as D.W. Griffith. This program focuses on the innovative works of filmmakers Spencer Williams, Oscar Micheaux, Eloyse Gist, and Clarence Muse. Includes clips from their various works. You can check this film out at both Hamon and Fondren.


Beyoncé read selections of poems by Warsan Shire in between songs in Lemonade. You can request  Shire’s works via SMU’s Interlibrary Loan service.

  • Ain’t I a woman: Black women and feminism (1981) by bell hooks. “A classic work of feminist scholarship, Ain’t I a Woman has become a must-read for all those interested in the nature of black womanhood. Examining the impact of sexism on black women during slavery, the devaluation of black womanhood, black male sexism, racism among feminists, and the black woman’s involvement with feminism, hooks attempts to move us beyond racist and sexist assumptions. The result is nothing short of groundbreaking, giving this book a critical place on every feminist scholar’s bookshelf.” –Routledge. Check this book out at the Fondren Library Center.
  • A voice from the South (1892) by Anna Julia Cooper. “Cooper engages a variety of issues ranging from women’s rights to racial progress, from segregation to literary criticism. The first half of her book concentrates largely on the education of African American women. Women, Cooper argues, are essential to ‘the regeneration and progress of a race.’ Accordingly, women should be brought fully into the education process….In the second half of her book, Cooper discusses a number of authors and their representations of African Americans. Among others, she discusses Harriet Beecher Stowe, Albion Tourgée, George Washington Cable, William Dean Howells, and Maurice Thompson. Cooper reaches the conclusion that an accurate depiction of African Americans has yet to be written, and she calls for an African American author to take up this challenge…Cooper discusses the African American role in the economy for the remainder of her book. She views African American poverty as the heritage of slavery, but notes that despite their disadvantaged start and the active opposition to African American economic growth, there has been significant progress in this area. Cooper considers education to be the best investment for African American prosperity.” —Andrew Leiter. Check this book out at the Fondren Library Center.
  • We should all be feminists (2014) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. “In this personal, eloquently-argued essay — adapted from her much-admired TEDx talk of the same name — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author of Americanah, offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now — and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.” –Anchor Books. Check this book out at the Fondren Library Center.
Via HBO/Giphy.


Sara Outhier | Digital Media Librarian | Hamon Arts Library

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