20 Years Later: Joan Morgan Revisits Trailblazing Manifesto 'When Chickenheads Come Home To Roost'
This year marks two decades since the book's debut.
Author Joan Morgan coined the term hip-hop feminism at a time when “most people felt like it couldn't possibly exist,” she says. The acclaimed author highlighted the basis of this term in her 1999 book When Chickenheads Come Home To Roost. According to Morgan, the passage breaks down “the keys that unlock the riches of contemporary black female identity” against the backdrop of rap becoming pop culture.
This month marks two decades since the book’s release and Morgan, 53, acknowledges things have enormously changed since that time.
The book existed in an era where concepts like heteronormativity, gender nonconformity, misogynoir, and slut-shaming didn’t exist. Therefore, a young woman reading When Chickenheads Come Home To Roost today might naturally critique it in a present-day context, an interpretation that Morgan finds “beautiful.”
“I’m excited there are women who have moved past it, who have added to my original theorizing, and people who disagree with it,” Morgan says. “The book gave a generation of young women who needed it a way to connect to feminism as clearly — or even more clearly — than their connection to hip-hop, which for a lot of us came first. That’s the thing I’m most proud of.”
Her current placement in a Ph.D. program has allowed her closer contact with younger black women who are scholars in the discipline she helped create, Morgan says. “There’s post-hip-hop feminism now, even a Crunk Feminist Collective,” she notes. “It’s way beyond me at this point, which is really amazing.”
Morgan also encourages young people at the forefront of societal change to not “cancel” older folk playing catch-up. “People can be really impatient with other people’s progress and development,” she adds. “They can judge harshly, forgetting these things take time.”
The veteran writer (her most recent work is 2018’s She Begat This: 20 Years of the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill) heads to Australia this weekend to celebrate International Women’s Day.
She’s appearing at the All About Women Festival at Sydney Opera House (March 10) under the banner “Hip Hop & Feminism.” Morgan is especially excited to see “what black and brown folks are doing down there.”
“I’m really interested in Australia and New Zealand. It’s always interesting to see how people are dealing with similar issues, but through different cultural realities and lenses,” she says. “I’m looking forward to learning a lot.”