Book Review: The Lives of Frederick Douglass by Robert S. Levine

The State of the Discipline Series: Part II

The Lives of Frederick Douglass is a fascinating collage of images that recreate various facets of the life of Frederick Douglass. Robert Levine demonstrates insight in delving into the complexity of racialised identities and the changing contours of self-definition in a collection that spans the most popular of Douglass’s writings, The Narrative of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself (1845), as well as his lesser known My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) and The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881), along with letters, articles, and speeches. Continue reading

‘[S]omething to feel about’: Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon: The Story of The Last Slave

A Review Essay

It is nearly a century since Zora Neale Hurston wrote Barracoon, an ethnography of Cudjo Lewis, the Alabama man believed to be the last living African enslaved in the United States. On May 8 Lewis’ story became widely available to the public for the first time. To mark this historic occasion, and to commemorate the life and works of Zora Neale Hurston – a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance, African-American folklorist and ethnographer, and one of the most significant women writers of the twentieth century – USSO has commissioned a series of articles on any aspect of Hurston’s life, her art, her anthropology. This article is the second in the series. Continue reading

From Lemonade to the Louvre: Beyoncé and Jay Z’s Contestation of Whiteness and Showcasing of Black Excellence in Everything Is Love

On 16 June 2018, Beyoncé and her husband Jay Z released their latest and joint album, Everything Is Love, exclusively to Jay Z’s music streaming service, Tidal [1]. The album quickly became the subject of discussion among cultural commentators and mainstream media around the world, who largely saw it as the final … Continue reading

Book Review: Noise Uprising by Michael Denning

The State of the Discipline Series: Part I

As Benedict Anderson’s concept of nationalism relies on the omnipresence of ‘print capitalism’, so Michael Denning here argues that decolonisation depended on an era of ‘sound capitalism’ – a new, urban, plebeian music that circled the world. In this sense, then, while there is no clear moment when the ear was ‘decolonised’, the battle over sound and music was central to the struggle over colonialism. Continue reading

Review: Black Art, Black Power: Responses to Soul of a Nation

Tate Modern

Nine speakers, four panels, one day: the highly-anticipated conference organised by the Tate Modern in conjunction with their Soul of a Nation exhibition was not only incredibly broad in the number of topics discussed but simultaneously rich in detail. Continue reading

Book review: Out of Oakland, Black Panther Party Internationalism during the Cold War by Sean L. Malloy

Sean L. Malloy’s book provides a convincing and engaging history of the internationalism of the Black Panther Party (BPP). It is a valuable contribution to scholarship on the BPP, black internationalism, and the intersection of issues of race and the Cold War. Continue reading

On Breaking Dissertations, or How I Read Sideways

If a project claims to re-consider the American avant-garde and its racism, what impact does this have on academic practice as such? Mariya Nikolova argues that a critique of avant-garde movements is impossible without Black and Gender theorizations. Hence the need for a re-consideration of avant-garde’s underlying protocols. Form and formality are invariably linked to epistemological violence, to the way knowledge inhabits and inhibits understanding. Experimentation often entailed elitism, but dissidence experiments, too. This double grammar resuscitates avant-gardism and requires a careful attention. The white avant-garde claimed the former through the latter, and the fact that it did raises the question of form. When does form collapse? Is there a way to make this visible?Does a methodology exist that attends to practices of unreading and whether a White scholar could ever impede their own safety? How would self-sabotage appear in such an endeavour?
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Veiled Interpretations of Du Bois’s ‘The Souls of Black Folk’ (1903)

Du Bois’s work The Souls of Black Folk (1903) attempts to capture the quintessential twentieth century problem “of the color-line” (713), that is the problem of racial belonging and identification. In these terms, Du Bois cautiously steps within the “Veil” of his racial segregation, a capitalized term he coins to help readers visualize the obscure barrier that separates the two worlds, and attempts to decipher the subliminal fluctuations of a blackness vastly treated as a flaw. This is the exact point which Du Bois delves into in order to staple together multiple thematic concerns. Continue reading

The Maroons of Prospect Bluff: The Free Black Fort of Nineteenth Century Florida

A special article marking the 201st anniversary of the destruction of the 'Negro Fort' at Prospect Bluff (1816)

The ‘Negro Fort’ at Prospect Bluff was one of the most formidable Maroon settlements in the whole of the New World that met its volatile end on 27 July, 1816. The story of these fugitives remains eschewed outside of academic circles, perhaps due to its uncomfortable reminder of the extent the pre-Civil War United States went to in upholding the racial status quo. Continue reading

Hannah Murray: My Reflections on winning the 2016 USSO Keynote Competition

The competition posed a welcome challenge disseminating my research for different audiences. It encouraged me to write for an audience that, whilst sharing a broad base of knowledge, are not experts in my specific field of nineteenth-century literature. Furthermore, it challenged me to think beyond the narrow focus of my PhD thesis. Instead of the granular work I often present in a 20-minute paper, the keynote made me think of my work in much broader terms and make connections outside the thesis. Continue reading