Katrina Bell McDonald

Associate Professor

Mergenthaler 540
Tuesday, 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Curriculum Vitae

In the Media

I joined the faculty of Johns Hopkins in 1994 as I was completing my doctoral study at the University of California, Davis. I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in Written Communication from Mills College in 1983 (Oakland, CA); a Master of Arts degree in Applied Communication Research from Stanford University in 1984 (Palo Alto, CA); a Master of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of California, Davis in 1990; and a Ph.D. in Sociology from UC Davis in 1995. I now hold the title of Associate Professor of Sociology and became tenured in the spring of 2006, the second black female ever to be awarded tenure in the School of Arts and Sciences or the School of Engineering at Hopkins.

At Hopkins, I teach courses on The African-American Family, Gender, Introduction to African-American Studies, Contemporary Race Relations, Qualitative Research Methods, and Introductory Social Statistics. I also serve on the board of the Center for Africana Studies. I am a member of the American Sociological Association, the Hopkins Black Faculty and Staff Association, the Maryland Humanities Council, the Hopkins Population Center, and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

My research and teaching interest is in explicating how life is lived at the margins of society for disadvantaged race, gender, and class groups. I began my academic career by examining maternal activism among middle-class black women, a long tradition steeped in what I call “normative empathy,” motivation derived from a conjunction of empathy for other black women and of African-American norms of solidarity, responsibility, and accountability.

Since then, my research has covered a number topics ranging from:

  • Potential barriers to women-centered kin support for present-day urban black teen mothers
  • Differences in life outcome among black and white children in the inner city and the extent to which urban disadvantage differentiates young adult educational outcomes by race and gender under such conditions.
  • How contemporary black women’s ideas of black womanhood and sisterhood merge with social class status to shape certain attachments and detachments among them
  • Contemporary marriage among young native blacks, black Africans immigrants, and black Caribbean's in the United States, comparatively.
  • Military service as a potential pathway to early socioeconomic achievement for disadvantaged groups
  • The paradox of institutional racism for minority teachers at elite, private K-12 schools.
  • The experience of downward residential mobility among disadvantaged black mothers
  • And more…

In addition to serving on the Sociology faculty, I served as the Associate Dean of Multicultural Affairs from 2008-2010.

I have a number of research and writing projects currently in the works. First, there is Marriage in Black: The Pursuit of Married Life among Native Blacks, African immigrants, and Caribbean Immigrants in the United States, a comparative study of black marriage in the United States among native blacks, African immigrants, and Caribbean immigrants, to be completed by early 2015 (co-authored with Caitlin Cross-Barnet). This book contemplates how contemporary young black couples (roughly in their 30s) negotiate marital relationships, navigate marital conflict, and reconcile the recent political pressure for “traditional” marriage with the strong socioeconomic status many black women hold. One of our research objectives is to better understand the nature of black marital egalitarianism, given numerous claims of egalitarianism’s greater prevalence among blacks as compared to other racial and ethnic groups. We are also interested in the role religion plays in promoting or not promoting certain models of marriage.

Then there is an introductory social statistics textbook, Statistical Odyssey: Real Sociology, Real Research, designed to introduce students to statistical concepts in the appropriate order, to help students to not confuse theoretical notions with empirical ones, and to connect statistics lessons to real-time research as reported in the journals of the American Sociological Association.

I am also working towards producing two social documentaries. The first seeks to illuminate the problem of public education detachment among African American boys. And the second discusses a little known fact: West, East, and South Africans involvement in World War II on the part of the Allied Forces. Since documentaries are new for me, I am working with a number of other individuals to produce the very best of informative films.

In 2007, I released Embracing Sisterhood: Class, Identity, and Contemporary Black Women (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007). In this book I analyze how contemporary black women’s ideas of black womanhood and sisterhood merge with social class status to shape certain attachments and detachments among them. Similarities as well as variations in how black women of different social backgrounds perceive and live black womanhood are interpreted via my primary metaphor “embracing Oprah.” I find that the potential for a pervasive and polarizing “black stepsisterhood” is considerably undermined by the passion with which black women cling to the promises of cross-class, gender-ethnic “community” and of group determination. Embracing Sisterhood draws its analysis from in-depth interviews with 88 contemporary black women aged 18 to 89, covering issues associated with dimensions of gender-ethnic identity and consciousness.

And my most recent article is with Pamela Bennett: “Military Service as a Pathway to Early Socioeconomic Achievement for Disadvantaged Groups.” In Life-Course Perspectives on Military Service, edited by Janet M. Wilmoth and Andrew S. London. New York: Routledge.

230.205 Introduction to Social Statistics (undergraduate)
230.255 Men & Women in Society
230.600 Introduction to Social Statistics (graduate)
230.208 Introduction to Race and Ethnicity
230.316 The African-American Family
230.323 Qualitative Research Practicum
230.332 Race, Racism, and Racial Privilege
230.616 Researching Race, Class, and Gender
230.649 Qualitative Research Methods in the Social Sciences
362.111 Introduction to African-American Studies

2013. Bennett, Pamela R. and Katrina Bell McDonald. “Assessing Military Service as a Pathway to Early Socioeconomic Achievement for Disadvantaged Groups.” In Life Course Perspectives on Military Service, edited by Janet M. Wilmoth and Andrew S. London. New York: Routledge.

2012. Book Review: Is Marriage for White People? International Journal of Sociology of the Family, 38(1):121-123.

2011. Book Review: Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman: Voice and the Embodiment of a Costly Performance; Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class; Black Women, Cultural Images, and Social Policy; and Erotic Revolutionaries: Black Women, Sexuality, and Popular Culture. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 37(1): 240-247.

2009. Book Review: Blue-Chip Black: Race, Class, and Status in the New Black Middle Class, with Caitlin Cross-Barnet. Journal of Marriage and Family 71 (2): 209–436.

2009. “(In)Visibility Blues: The Paradox of Institutional Racism,” with Adia Harvey Wingfield. Sociological Spectrum 29(1). 9(1): 28-50.

2008. “Downward Residential Mobility in Structural-Cultural Context: The Case of Disadvantaged Black Mothers,” with Bedelia N. Richards. Black Women, Gender, and Families, 2(1), 25-53.

2007. Embracing Sisterhood: Class, Identity, and Contemporary Black Women. Rowman & Littlefield.

2013. Discussant/Guest, The Marc Steiner Show, WEAA Radio, Morgan University, Discussion of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.

2013. WHUR Radio, Howard University, “The Daily Drum” Program, discussion of the nature and state of the black middle class.

2012. "Today" on News Plus, China Radio International. Discussion of the Trayvon Martin Murder Case, with Prof. George H. Rose, II of Stetson University. Beijing, China.

2010. Discussant/Guest, WEAA Radio “Listen Up!” segment, Morgan University, on the current status of the African-American Family. Baltimore, MD.

2010. The Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association Book Club, host for interview on The Other Wes Moore.

2009. National Public Radio, “Tell Me More” Program, “'Sistas vs. Sistas': Are Black Women At Odds?” Author and Sociologist Katrina Bell McDonald and reality TV star and author Omarosa Manigault Stallworth, debate relations among black women.

2009 (August issue). Essence Magazine, “Black Women Behaving Badly.” McDonald relates the results of her book, Embracing Sisterhood, to popular discussions of black women’s sometimes contentious relationships with each other.