Violence from Slavery to #BlackLivesMatter brings together perspectives on violence and its representation in African American history from slavery to the present moment. Contributors explore how violence, signifying both an instrument of the white majority’s power and a modality of black resistance, has been understood and articulated in primary materials that range from slave narrative through "lynching plays" and Richard Wright’s fiction to contemporary activist poetry, and from photography of African American suffering through Blaxploitation cinema and Spike Lee’s films to rap lyrics and performances. Diverse both in their period coverage and their choice of medium for discussion, the 11 essays are unified by a shared concern to unpack violence’s multiple meanings for black America. Underlying the collection, too, is not only the desire to memorialize past moments of black American suffering and resistance, but, in politically timely fashion, to explore their connections to our current conjuncture.
Table of Contents
Introduction: African American History, Violence and Problems of Representation
PART 1: THE VIOLENCES OF SLAVERY
- "The Zest of Sport": Representing Slave Hunting as Sport in the Antebellum and Jim Crow Eras
2 "My massa whip me, cause I love you": Violence towards Slaves in Antebellum Southern Literature Peter Templeton
3 "Monstrous Perversions and Lying Inventions": Moses Roper’s Performative Resistance to the Transatlantic Imagination of American Slavery
4 "The lynching had to be the best it could be done": Slavery, Suffering and Spectacle in Recent American Cinema
Lydia J. Plath
PART 2: FROM CIVIL WAR TO CIVIL RIGHTS
5 Making Lynching Male: A Canon-Shaping Tendency
6 Lynching Photography and African American Melancholia
7 A Necessary Undoing: The Implications of Violence in Richard Wright’s Native Son and The Outsider
PART 3: FROM BLAXPLOITATION TO #BLACK LIVES MATTER
8 "The baddest One-Chick Hit-Squad": Pam Grier, Angela Davis and the Politics of Female Violence in Blaxploitation Cinema
9 The Topos of Lyrical Gunplay: Hip-Hop and the Process of Civilization
10 Towards a Black Prophetic Critique of Neoliberal State Violence: Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and the Death of Eric Garner
11 Formal Violence: The Black Lives Matter Movement and Contemporary Elegy
Andrew Dix is Lecturer in American Literature and Film in the School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Loughborough University, UK.
Peter Templeton is Honorary Fellow at Loughborough University, UK, teaching both in the School of the Arts, English and Drama and the School of Social Sciences and Humanities.
"This remarkable collection of essays offers a series of timely interventions in the study of violence and its representation in African American history. It breaks new ground in all kinds of ways, helping us to understand how the bitter and often traumatic experiences of African Americans, from the establishment of the American republic right up to the present day, have shaped a whole range of cultural forms and profoundly influenced the way African Americans identify themselves. The African American activist, Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, famously claimed in 1967, ‘Violence is as American as cherry pie.’ This book offers support for that claim in terms that are at once passionately committed and rigorously critical." -- Richard Gray, Fellow of the British Academy