Griot Institute hosts Margo Natalie Crawford for lecture “Black Post-Blackness”

Elizabeth Lagerback and Silvia Buonocore, Contributing Writer and News Editor

Author and University of Pennsylvania Professor of English Margo Natalie Crawford came to the University to present a talk entitled “Black Post-Blackness” on March 20. The event was held in the Hildreth-Mirza Hall Great Room and attendance was free. The lecture was put on by the Griot Institute of Africana Studies as part of this year’s spring lecture series, “The Black Unfamiliar in the 21st Century.” The series includes seven speakers, who all share their insights on what they perceive to be unfamiliar about black culture, art, intellectual inquiry, and more.


The Black Familiar is a term coined in the early 1990s to describe certain aspects of black culture. In contrast, the Black Unfamiliar is the new way in which scholars are reevaluating objects that were once considered to be a part of the Black Familiar. “This very topic reminds me of what I wrote about in my book, in which I asked myself what remains unfamiliar, what we need to make more legible in black studies,” Crawford said.


Aside from being a professor, Crawford is a researcher and a writer. Her courses specialize in African American literature and visual culture and global black studies. She completed her Ph.D. in American studies at Yale University and has also taught at Vassar College and Cornell University.


Crawford’s talk stems from one of her books entitled “Black Post-Blackness: The Black Arts Movement and Twenty-First Century Aesthetics.” She has also published two other books, “Dilution anxiety and the Black Phallus” and “New Thoughts on the Black Arts Movement,” as well as a wide range of essays and the exhibition catalog for the 2013 AfriCOBRA exhibit at the DuSable Museum.


Professor of English Carmen Gillespie opened up the talk with a short introduction about Crawford’s work, areas of research and praise for her writing. Gillespie also shared that she “can’t wait to read the book Crawford is currently working on.”


In her lecture, Crawford examined the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s and 1970s and compared it to art in the 21st century. She explained the phases in the art that are called “black” and “post-black.” Post-black was a philosophical movement that originated in the art world to understand race through the actual experience of African Americans. She argued that the 1970s were just as “post-black” as the early 21st century. “Black post-blackness is a sign of the new vocabulary we need in discussions of race,” Crawford said. Crawford proved her argument with various pieces of art that showed the numerous ways “blackness” can be expressed.


Future events in this lecture series, which answer questions about the Black Unfamiliar from a wide range of perspectives, will take place on March 27, April 3, and April 10. The lectures are all free and open to the general public.


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