Du Bois and the 1897 post-racial

After Obama’s election in 2008, we got to hear a lot about this term “post-racial.” I’ve never been sure exactly who believed in such a thing, except those people for whom race is such an anxiety that they now flat out deny its presence in everyday life and always have. Opportunists. In that sense, I…

Huey Newton’s primal scenes

There are many ways to read Huey Newton’s Revolutionary Suicide. It is, above all, a signature text of its moment: peaking Black radicalism, splinters in that radicalism (the critiques of Eldridge Cleaver and Stokely Carmichael aren’t just polemical, they cut to the heart of the meanings of nationalism and revolutionary politics), and autobiography as a…

Race, reading, and critical framing

I’m working slowly but persistently on this James Baldwin book – tentative title ‘So Unimaginable a Price’: Baldwin and the Black Atlantic – and have recently been sitting with his famous critique of Richard Wright. The basics of that critique are well-known and straightforward enough: the protest novel is one-dimensional and Black life is more complex, complicated,…

Spivak on Du Bois and Black Reconstruction

Here is a snippet from an interview with Gayatri Spivak. The interview as a whole is very interesting, touching on issues of solidarity, community, language, translation, and the like. In this passage, she has a few words about Du Bois, capitalism, and racial capitalism in the frame of the success, then downfall, of Reconstruction. Very…

Grandin on slavery and freedom

From Greg Grandin’s fantastic The Empire of Necessity (Holt, 2013) “Writing in the 1970s, Yale’s Edmund Morgan was one of the first modern historians to fully explore what he called the “central paradox” of this Age of Liberty: it also was the Age of Slavery. Morgan was writing specifically about colonial Virginia, but the paradox…

Boys Will Be

There’s blood on the leaves. There is blood on this ground like there used to be, like there still is, blood on the leaves. This blood, the kind that has been shed on this ground, is dark and brown and sticky. Familiar. It pools and spreads all over the floor. Reminding. It drips from the…

Memory, haunting, ready to die

From Marisa Parham‘s Haunting and Displacement in African American Literature and Culture (2009) “Haunting is not compelling because it resonates with the supernatural, but rather because it is appropriate to a sense of what it means to live in between things – in between cultures, in between times, in between spaces – to live with various kinds…

Baldwin, home, tradition

From the conclusion to my essay entitled “James Baldwin and the Question of Home” – also the final chapter of my book project tentatively entitled ‘So Unimaginable a Price’: Baldwin and the Black Atlantic. *           * * A final few words. I began the present reflections with a note on Balfour’s…

Philosophy and race, dead white and dead wrong

This post is mostly an opportunity to circulate an excellent short article by Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman in Times Higher Education. Coleman’s article offers a brief reflection on the systematic exclusion – and we have to call it systematic, at this point – of black Atlantic traditions from the discipline of philosophy. It’s a topic…

Language, race, memory, home

Below is the conclusion to my essay “Vernaculars of Home,” in which I explore James Baldwin’s conception of language. In the essay, I argue that Baldwin’s defense of what he calls “black English” works as an epistemological and ontological account of African-American subjectivity. This account links black English to the sorrow songs, and so to…