Paula Marie Seniors, PhD / Historian, Ethnic Studies Scholar, and associate professor of Africana Studies at Virginia Tech. I am the biographer of Mae Mallory and The Monroe Defense Committee. My parents Audrey Proctor Seniors and Clarence Henry Seniors founded the Monroe Defense Committee which bound us together with Mae and Pat Mallory as family.
My forthcoming book Mae Mallory, The Monroe Defense Committee and World Revolutions: African American Women Radical Activists 1958-1987, University of Georgia Press (forthcoming) explores why working class African American women Mae Mallory, Mrs. Ethel Azalea Johnson of the Negroes with Guns Movement, my mother Audrey Proctor Seniors, and Mallory’s daughter Pat Mallory choose radical activism - Maoism, Trotskyism, Cubanismo, and self-defense to promote civil and human rights and justice in the U.S. It explores why they joined revolutionary governments in Tanzania, Grenada, and Nicaragua and linked the struggle for African American civil and human rights to world revolutions.
As the biographer of Mae Mallory, I wrote “Mae Mallory,” for the Black Power Encyclopedia (1965-1975), ABC-CLIO, forthcoming, and published in 2014 “Mae Mallory and the Southern Belle Fantasy Trope at Cuyahoga County Jail 21st and Payne PAIN,” in From Uncle Tom’s Cabin to The Help, Palgrave.
“Mae Mallory and the Southern Belle Fantasy Trope" uses Mallory’s diary entries, The Help and Caroline or Change, to explore how Mallory used writing to fight white female supremacy to survive incarceration, how white people used the Southern Belle Fantasy Trope and the Mammy Trope to maintain power, and how Mae, Alice Childress, Louise Thompson, Marvel Cook and others resisted these tropes. Ultimately this chapter excavates history, offering an alternate narrative of the civil rights movement centered on the self-defense movement of which Mallory belonged, moving away from the palatable and popular Civil Rights discourse of the passive resistance of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and others.
My first book Beyond Lift Every Voice and Sing: The Culture of Uplift, Identity, and Politics in Black Musical Theater won the Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Prize from the Association of Black Women Historians
Beyond Lift Every Voice and Sing explores the realities of African American life as refracted through the musical theater productions of the most prolific Black song writing teams of the early twentieth century. James Weldon Johnson, J. Rosamond Johnson, and Bob Cole combined conservative and progressive ideas in a complex and historically specific strategy for overcoming racism and its effects. In Shoo Fly Regiment (1906-1908) and The Red Moon (1908-1910), theater, uplift, and politics collided as the team tried to communicate a politics of uplift racial pride, gender equality, and interethnic coalitions. The overarching question is how roles and representations in black musical theater both reflected and challenged the dominant social order.
I am the co editor with Professor Michelle Duster and Dr. Rose Thevenin of Michelle Obama’s Impact on African American Women and Girls, Editors, Palgrave MacMillan, 2018. The book follows in the tradition of early Black and Ethnic Studies publications that sought to include all socio-economic and political spheres of the African American community, everyday women and academicians. It includes scholarly essays, personal essays, poems and fine artwork to explore how the media representation of Obama and Black women in general reflected, impacted and inspired African American women and girls. This book includes my essay “Reconfiguring Black Motherhood: Michelle Obama and the “Mom in Charge Trope” which explores how Obama’s working-class background informed her decision as First Lady to inhabit The Mom in Charge, trope, as well as African American women, white supremacist feminists, and the media’s response and reaction to Obama claiming this trope.
I am also the writer of African American Women Wept, The Silence of Michelle Obama as the World Witnessed State Violence Against African American Women and Girls, Palgrave MacMillan, 2018. Using personal reflections, historical, communication, and video analysis, this book investigates Michelle Obama’s silence notwithstanding white supremacist police murder and violence against African American girls, women, and children, who resemble her family. It explores the militarization of the police, militarizations relationship to violence against African American women and girls, and how these atrocities affected these victims. I try to understand Michelle Obama's silence given her and her daughters Blackness and gender.
I am also working on “Bob Cole's Colored Man's Declaration of Independence, Black Economic Nationalism and the case of Shoo Fly Regiment (1906) and Shuffle Along (2016),” The Routledge Companion to African American Theatre and Performance, forthcoming. This chapter looks at how Cole and Johnson used the “Colored Man’s Declaration of Independence” and Washington and DuBois’ ideologies to successfully produce Shoo Fly Regiment and The Red Moon. I look at the 2016 Broadway production of Shuffle Along, it’s premature closing, what happens when white producers control the Black cultural product, and what happens when strategies such as Cole and Johnson’s are not utilized. I also explore how arts and politics collided in these three musicals, and how Cole and Johnson’s shows surmounted white supremacy while Shuffle Along did not.
Over the years I have published numerous essays including- "Most Influential Black Artists in Musical Theater," Virginia Tech Magazine, 2016, “Transforming the Carmen Narrative: The Case of Carmen the Hip Hopera,” Message in the Music: Hip Hop, History, and Pedagogy, The Association for African American Life and History Press 2011; “Exile and Erasure in Cinderella The African American Cinderella and the Asian Prince,” Images That Injure, Praeger Press 2011; “Jack Johnson, Paul Robeson and The Hyper Masculine African American Übermensch,” Harlem Renaissance, Politics, Arts, Letters, John Hopkins University Press 2010; “Cole and Johnson’s The Red Moon (1908-1910): Reimagining African American and Native American Female Education at Hampton Institute,” The Journal of African American History, 2008; “Red, Black, and Yellow, Conquest, Slavery, and Indispensable Labor: Teaching and Learning American History through a Multicultural Curriculum,” The Black History Bulletin, 2007; and “Ada Overton Walker, Abbie Mitchell and the Gibson Girl: Reconstructing African American Womanhood,” The International Journal of Africana Studies, 2007.
I received my PhD and a MA in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, San Diego, a MA in Musical Theater Vocal Performance from New York University, and a BFA in Dance from the City College of New York. In 2016-2017 I was a Fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities working on Mae Mallory, The Monroe Defense Committee and World Revolutions: African American Women Radical Activists 1958-1987. In 2010 I was the first South Atlantic Humanities Faculty Fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Before becoming an academic I was a professional dancer in New York City. I am a proud mother of a beautiful daughter.
Copyright by Paula Marie Seniors. All Rights Reserved.