RCID Scholar Spotlight! Shantell Hinton-Hill

“Writing that story gave me the license to be big. It gave me the agency to be the commentator of my world rather than a passive participant in a world controlled by others.”

First year RCID Student, Shantell Hinton-Hill shares with us her journey to Clemson and the inspirations behind her work. Hinton-Hill primary research is grounded in Black feminism, Womanist Theology, Afro-Futurism, Sacred Rhetoric, and Black Folklore. 


Ever since I can remember, I’ve been observing and navigating the myriad of rhetorics found in the various contexts that were integral to my upbringing and identity. From the Black church to spending summers in Jim Crow-ravaged, still-segregated Mississippi to walking the halls of my predominantly white High School in Conway, AR, my ways of being and knowing were formed and forged, often times, in the crucible of the everyday collisions around race, gender, religion, and class. Because I didn’t have language for these observations at the time, I started writing my first novel when I was 8 or 9 years old. I vividly remember writing neatly lined words onto a yellow notepad of a story about a little Black girl who runs away and creates an adventurous life on her own.

Writing that story gave me license to be big. It gave me the agency to be the commentator of my world rather than a passive participant in a world controlled by others. And, more than anything, it began to develop my own quest to understand the hallmarks of language, communication, and storytelling as shaped and shifted by our inherited cultures.

When I read The Bluest Eye for the first time in my Womanist Literature and Ethics class while enrolled at Vanderbilt Divinity School, Toni Morrison awakened my 8 or 9 year old self and reminded me of the world that little Black girls inhabit and run all by themselves. Engaging with Morrison’s work, I wrestled with messages about Black life and humanity that had been sugared, spiced, and spoon-fed to me by systems of dominance and oppression. There it was again. The same questions about how subjugation and suffering gets communicated, across time and space, to Black women, femmes, and girls and why we ever believe it to be true.

But alongside this curiosity about Black women’s suffering, I have been even more intrigued by our expressions of resistance, resilience, and joy. The ways in which Sheryl Lee Ralph’s recent Emmy acceptance speech (song) captured the fullness and multivalence of Black women’s stories of strength and overcoming and agency is but one example of the power of Black women’s epistemological and ontological communication that I desire to explore in deep study.

These interrogations and others draw me to the Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design program at Clemson University. Because my research interests are situated within the fields of writing, Black feminism, Black women’s spirituality, ethnography (by way of storytelling) and narrative power, I would be honored to work with both Dr. L. Kaifa Roland and Dr. Rhondda Robinson Thomas for distinct, but intersectional, purposes. With their scholarship and expertise, I hope to investigate the following topics for my own research:

  • How do the intersectional identities of race, gender, and class become bound together and communicated across generations, particularly in the context of the American south? 
  • What role does Black religiosity serve in maintaining, and/or dismantling, oppressive narrative regimes? 
  • And what are the artistic and mundane customs encapsulated in the Black (American) identity that move us toward an ethic of liberation and futurism?

Additionally, with my love of writing poetry, non-fiction, and science-fiction, I intend to complete an unconventional dissertation that includes the creative element of digital content creation via social media. More specifically, I will explore these topics within the particularities of “Auntie” culture utilizing an Instagram platform I currently curate entitled “Love, Auntie.” 

What is next for you?

I am very excited to share that my first non-fiction project, entitled Love Auntie: Parables & Prayers for Sacred Belonging will be published in November 2024 with Herald Press. You can read more about the book project below and pre-order your copy here.

Where can we go when the world refuses to see us in our fullness? When culture reduces us to categories and stereotypes, and even our churches make us feel like we don’t fit in? If we’re blessed to have an Auntie—someone who, like Jesus, welcomes us wholly and calls us beloved—then we have glimpsed the liberation and divine affirmation of sacred belonging.

Time and again, Aunties have offered a model for undoing, becoming, and embracing our identities and deepest beliefs. Auntie culture, particularly in Black spaces, is immediately recognizable as an embodied experience where nieces, nephews, and “niblings” feel safe, heard, and seen. Aunties, whether biological or simply beloved kin, welcome us in.

In Love, Auntie, Shantell Hinton Hill, aka Reverend Auntie, offers tender testimonies to a flock of loved ones who have been led to believe they do not belong. Through modern-day parables, prayers, and prompts for reflection, she invites readers to sit alongside the wisdom-bearing of Black women, lovingly known as Aunties, as they carve out space for doubts, questions, and spiritual expression that honors intersecting identities of race, gender, and class. Because trust and believe, Aunties always know how to turn mess into miracles.


Connect with Shantell

Instagram: @love_auntie.co and @shantellhhill
Website: www.shantellhhill.com
Email: shanteh[at]clemson[dot]edu





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