Building on black women’s critical negotiations of black nationalist discourse, this essay names the matrix of black maternal sounds, songs, and approximated womb-spaces as the site of production for black nationalist ideologies and black male identity. Listening to audible traces of black maternity in Frederick Douglass’s 1845 Narrative, Frances E. W. Harper’s Iola Leroy (1892), Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952), and Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon (1977), the essay unearths the sonic frameworks through which black male subjectivity and ideologies of black nationalism are formulated. Masculinist black nationalist texts use black women’s sounds to enact the subjective rebirths of men, who then abandon black women, thereby erasing their labors in the constitution of black nationalist ideology. However, embedded within these texts are the resonant echoes of black women’s pain, which both haunt and structure their respective nationalist discourses. The article reveals the extended history of maternal disavowal in black male-authored nationalistic texts, and counterpoises black women authors’ critical responses to these texts in order to reveal that maternal sacrifice proves endemic to masculinist forms of black nationalism.

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