Ruth Nicole Brown is Associate professor of Gender and Women’s Studies (50%), Education Policy, Organization and Leadership (50%), The Center for African Studies (0%), The Department of Theatre (0%) and most recently Art + Design (0%). She earned a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor in Political Science with graduate certificates in World Performance Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies. Selected a Conrad Humanities Scholar (2018-23), Brown's research, community engagement, and artistic practice mutually reinforce the other; she is at her best when disciplinary norms are disrupted in favor of creating ideas that swing.

Key Professional Appointments

Assistant Professor Educational Policy Studies & Gender and Women's Studies, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 2007 - present

PostDoctoral Fellow Gender and Women's Studies Program, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 2006 - 2007

PostDoctoral Fellow African American Studies and Research Program, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 2005 - 2006


Ph.D., Political Science, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, 2005

M.A., Political Science & Women's Studies Certificate, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, 2000

B.A., Political Science, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 1998

Research & Service

Brown’s research documents and analyzes Black girls’ lived experiences and the practical ways they make Black girlhood with those who love them. Her previous work has explored how Black girl’s conceptualize freedom, creativity, and relationships in Saving Our Lives Hear Our Truths (SOLHOT). Brown founded SOLHOT in 2006 as a collective space to celebrate Black girlhood and to date it remains her most cherished and consistent practice of meeting Black girls face to face and heart to heart. SOLHOT has received support from campus grants, Champaign-Urbana institutions, and those who actively participate. A Whiting Foundation Public Engagement Fellow (2019-2020), Brown’s Black Girl Genius Week (BGGW) exhausts the rituals of SOLHOT to widen the cipher and experience the imaginative capabilities and artistry that only occurs when Black girls and women are together as homegirls. BGGW has occurred in central Illinois (2014 & 2016) and in 2019 will take place in Chicago, IL, San Diego, CA, and Columbia, SC.

According to Brown, there is something about Black girlhood that is extremely experimental and that quality of innovation guides her artmaking. The desire to play with movement, sound, images, and words against the assumable or knowable figure of the Black girl is very much a part of her creative process. Aesthetic influences are many: the everydayness of survival, amateur impulses, do it yourself cultures, Baptist church tea parties, and hip hop. In many ways, SOLHOT functions as workshop and studio and it is there where she has formally developed a sense of poetic timing, preference for what is good, and how to create collectively. She appreciates how her art inspires others, contributes to local culture, and prompts conversations about the peculiarity of humility, labor, contemplation, and authenticity as Midwestern aesthetics.

Brown has authored two books, Hear Our Truths: The Creative Potential of Black Girlhood (University of Illinois Press, 2013) and Black Girlhood Celebration: Toward A Hip Hop Feminist Pedagogy (Peter Lang, 2009) co-edited several anthologies, Disrupting Qualitative Inquiry: Possibilities and Tensions in Educational Research with R. Carducci and C. Kuby (Peter Lang, 2014) and Wish To Live: The Hip Hop Feminist Pedagogy Reader with C. Kwaye (Peter Lang, 2012) and wrote numerous journal articles. Brown is in a band called We Levitate with bandbaes Porshe Garner, Jessica Robinson, and Blair Smith and has facilitated and/or performed in several SOLHOT performances including The Mixtape Remix (2011), and Check In! (2010), and photography exhibits, The Rest is Work (2018), and Necessary Truths with C. Taaffe (2009).

You can find Ruth Nicole Brown outside, currently working on a multi-media project, Black Girl Nature which takes up ecowomanist and Black feminist preoccupations with Black girls’ presence in nature and palimpsest intellectual production. She examines critical questions of history, sound (field recordings digital music production), and preservation, all in relation to a sociality of Black girlhood. This project builds on the aforementioned fields and contributes to the digital arts and humanities of Black Girlhood Studies.


Brown, R. (2008). Black Girlhood Celebration: A Hip Hop Feminist Pedagogy. Peter Lang.

Brown, R. (2007). Persephone's triumph: Reflections of a young black woman becoming a real political scientist. Qualitative Inquiry, 13 (5), 650-659.

Brown, R. (2007). Remembering Maleesa: Theorizing black girl politics and the politicizing of socialization. National Political Science Review, 11 121-136.

Brown, R., & Desipio, L. (2007). Dianne Pinderhughes: A career dedicated to understanding the racial dynamics of American politics and to serving as an agent of change Political Science & Politics, 203-238.

Brown, R. (2006). Mentoring on the borderlands: Creating empowering connections between adolescent girls and young women volunteers. Human Architecture. Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge, IV 105-122.


“Conversation Circle on Hiphop Literacies” Sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English Assembly for Research (NCTEAR*) (2013). The Ohio State University.

A Black girl remix: The SOLHOT mixtape revisited (2012).: Oakland, CA.

“What Are We Complicit in Asking Black Girls Not to Know: a SOLHOT Session” (2012).

Black Girlhood: The mixtape remix: A Hip-hop inspired read through performance. Performance methodology: Endangered Black Girls Instruction 301 (2012). University of Missouri: Columbia, Mo.

Girl talk: Creating empowering spaces for Black girls and learning the ropes: Black girlhood, identity and the power of play (2012).: Lexington, KY.

Saving our lives hear our truths: The creative potential of Black girlhood and Black girlhood celebration: A Book Chat (2012). University of South Carolina Upstate: Spartanburg, SC.

Saving our lives, hear our truths: The education of Black girls and women in community spaces (2012). Governor’s State University: University Park, IL.

Transcending pedagogical practices: Stage, performance, and community (2012). Imaging America: New York, NY.

“Black Feminisms as Critical Pedagogy: Engaging Power, Privilege, and Difference in the Classroom,” (2011). National Women’s Studies Association: Atlanta, GA.

“Re-imaging Black Girlhood and Critical Pedagogy: We are Saving Our Lives, Hear Our Truths,” (2011). American Educational Research Association: New Orleans, LA.

“The Politics of Doing Feminist Girls’ Media Studies,” (2011). National Communications Association: New Orleans, LA.

“Saving Our Lives Hear Our Truths: The Education of Black Girls and Women in Community Spaces,”.: University Park, IL.


Principal Investigator Hardie Collaborative Stipend: Black Girlhood Celebration: Lessons from SOLHOT (Saving Our Lives, Hear Our Truths)!, Bureau of Educational Research, 2007 - 2008


Identity and Difference in Edu (EDUC 201) Focuses on the role of identity in schooling and the way in which identity is socially constructed. Examine how power and privilege impact equity and opportunities based on socially constructed identities such as race, social class, gender, sexual identity, language, (dis)ability, and nationalism. Explore asset-based frameworks that are identity affirming and counter deficit-based perspectives. This course is designed for students interested in reflecting on their own experiences as learners by critically examining their socially constructed identities and "ways of knowing" and the societal implications of these experiences. It is also for those considering careers in teaching, and anyone interested in reflecting on how issues of inclusion, exclusion, power, and privilege play out in education.This course satisfies the General Education Criteria for: Cultural Studies - US Minority.

Black Feminisms (EPS 590) Seminar in educational policy studies; sections offered in the following fields: (a) history of education; (b) philosophy of education; (c) comparative education; (d) social foundations of education; (e) philosophy of educational research; and (f) historical methods in education. May be repeated.

Critical Arts-Based Research (EPS 590) Seminar in educational policy studies; sections offered in the following fields: (a) history of education; (b) philosophy of education; (c) comparative education; (d) social foundations of education; (e) philosophy of educational research; and (f) historical methods in education. May be repeated.

Brown, Ruth Nicole

Associate Professor, Education Policy, Organization and Leadership



381 Education Building
1310 S. Sixth St.
Champaign, IL 61820

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