News Media and the Impact of Historical Stereotypes on Black Female Political Figures – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

News Media and the Impact of Historical Stereotypes on Black Female Political Figures

Lauren Weaver


Pronouns: she/her

Research Mentor(s): Sydney Carr, PhD Student
Research Mentor School/College/Department: Department of Political Science, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
Presentation Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021
Session: Session 4 (2pm-2:50pm)
Breakout Room: Room 6
Presenter: 6

Event Link


Historically, Black women in the U.S. have been largely disadvantaged in part due to the role of their dual race-gender identity. Whether on magazines, television shows, or music videos, controlling images and discourse have been used to preserve hegemonic power through stereotypes. There are three central stereotypes, rooted in America’s systemic, prejudice systems, that American modern media have created to spur perceptions of Black women; the “mammy”, “jezebel”, and “sapphire”. In our project, we set out to answer the following research question: Do black women experience more negativity in news segments than their white female counterparts?. We expect the aforementioned historical tropes to shape and impact how Black women are discussed within modern day news. In order to answer the proposed research question, we conduct a manual sentiment content analysis of roughly 1700 television news transcripts extracted from ABC, NBC, FOX, and MSNBC from the past three years. Currently, nearly 77% of all Americans receive their news by watching television. Based on the recurrent perpetuation of the aforementioned stereotypes across modern-day media, examining the role of these stereotypes in news is an important step in mitigation and intervention. Knowing that stereotypes exist and are perpetuated in the media, our research project uses this framework to examine the frequency and impacts of these historical stereotypes on discussions surrounding Black female political figures in news. Our preliminary findings reveal that Black women are spoken about in a very negative tone more often in comparison to non-hispanic white women. Based on analyzed segments, we also observed that when Black female figures are talked about negatively, it is often regarding perceived personality traits and individual impressions rather than their political decisions or opinions. Given that an increasing number of Black women are entering political spaces, their experiences in media should be better documented in research literature. As such, we feel the research we’re doing is not only relevant, but crucial. The subject of Black women’s experiences, specifically within politics and media, is an underdeveloped topic in itself, one that needs to be further discussed in order to lessen bias and advocate for changes in the treatment of Black women.

Authors: Lauren Weaver
Research Method: Qualitative Study

lsa logoum logo