Sing a Rhythm, Dance a Blues

Liberatory Education for Black and Brown Girls

A groundbreaking and visionary call to action on educating and supporting girls of color, from the highly acclaimed author of Pushout, with a foreword by award-winning educational abolitionist Bettina Love

“Monique Morris’s vision for our girls is powerfully expansive. She’s an inspiration to me and to all of us working to unleash their infinite potential.” —Ayanna Pressley, U.S. congresswoman

Wise Black women have known for centuries that the blues have been a platform for truth-telling, an underground musical railroad to survival, and an essential form of resistance, healing, and learning. In this “powerful call to action” (Rethinking Schools), leading advocate Monique W. Morris invokes the spirit of the blues to articulate a radically healing and empowering pedagogy for Black and Brown girls. Morris describes with candor and love what it looks like to meet the complex needs of girls on the margins.

Sing a Rhythm, Dance a Blues is a “vital, generous, and sensitively reasoned argument for how we might transform American schools to better educate Black and Brown girls” (San Francisco Chronicle). Morris brings together research and real life in this chorus of interviews, case studies, and the testimonies of remarkable people who work successfully with girls of color. The result is this radiant guide to moving away from punishment, trauma, and discrimination toward safety, justice, and genuine community in our schools.


“Black girls are not often at the center of the stories we read. Monique Morris’s work is a wonderful exception. Her passionate book explains how the real world—specifically schools—ignores, misreads, and mistreats us. This much-needed book is so important because it shows how Black and Brown girls, with the help of the teachers and people who love them, can write new stories that replace the fiction about our worth, our abilities, and ourselves.”
—Marley Dias, founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks and author of Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You!
“Not many, if any, books detail how to uplift and heal Black and Brown girls in real time in ways that are loving, focused on thriving, and practical, but Monique W. Morris has done it. Through rich and vivid storytelling backed by data and research, Morris gives us a pedagogical road map to our own humanity as educators by way of empowering Black and Brown girls. Each chapter helps the reader find their song, so they can sing a rhythm for our girls.”
—Bettina L. Love, author of We Want to Do More Than Survive
“With Pushout, Monique Morris brought the world to its knees and widened our eyes to see how systems have been designed to wrong our most vulnerable and brilliant young people. In Sing a Rhythm, Dance a Blues, she takes us on a deeper journey and offers us a way to reimagine schools and a path towards real solutions. The book has a simple elegance that is accessible and engaging, that is matched with ferocious truth telling and powerful narratives from real people on the front lines of the war against Black girls. I read it, felt something deep inside, read it again—and then again. It is one of those books. It hooks you, then teaches you, then offers you a path towards solutions. A masterpiece.”
—Christopher Emdin, author of For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood
“Monique Morris’s vision for our girls is powerfully expansive. She’s an inspiration to me and to all of us working to unleash their infinite potential.”
—Beverly Bond, celebrity DJ and founder of Black Girls Rock!
“A carefully crafted, heartfelt, solution-oriented source.”
Publishers Weekly
Sing a Rhythm, Dance a Blues is a brilliant and beautiful book. Drawing on rigorous scholarly analysis and deep engagement with the narratives of educational stakeholders, Morris articulates a lucid and audacious freedom dream for Black girls. Like an African rhythm, the book speaks to our souls and our feet, daring us to reimagine the world and demanding that we radically reshape our policy and practice. Like the blues, Morris’s writing is compelling, honest, and raw, but brimming with hope. Anyone interested in the lives of Black girls must read, recommend, share, study, and teach this text!”
—Marc Lamont Hill, BET correspondent and author of Nobody
“Morris is a force and a light, and this book invigorates the soul. It should be required reading for all teachers and it’s essential reading for anyone working to create a world where girls and women are truly liberated and loved.”
—Susan Burton, founder of A New Way of Life and author of Becoming Ms. Burton
“This beautiful book fills me with hope that our schools and our society can learn to nurture the tremendous untapped potential of Black and Brown girls. Through compelling and powerful stories, Dr. Morris shows how to support girls facing huge challenges to succeed as students, as artists, or as activists—and at loving themselves.”
—Naomi Wadler, activist and advocate for gun control
“A powerful call to action for educators, parents, administrators, and policymakers to reimagine what schools could look like when Black and Brown girls are placed at the center of conversation. . . . Morris makes a strong case for building relationships inside and outside of schools that recognize and celebrate the beauty and humanity of Black and Brown girls’ experiences.”
Rethinking Schools
“A passionate manifesto.”

News and Reviews

Ms. Magazine

“a passionate manifesto…reimagining what schools could do for girls if educators focused more on supporting and encouraging black and brown girls to flourish.”

San Francisco Chronicle

“‘Sing a Rhythm, Dance a Blues’ is a vital, generous and sensitively reasoned argument for how we might transform American schools to better educate black and brown girls. Nobody paying attention could honestly deny that we desperately need a kinder approach.

Publishers Weekly

"This is a carefully crafted, heartfelt, solution-oriented source for educators and policy makers."

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Goodreads Reviews