Exploring Black Experiences

Top left to bottom right: Ruha Benjamin, Hajar Yazdiha, Korey Garibaldi, Christopher Paul Harris

Exploring Black Experiences

First proposed by Black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University in 1969, Black History Month, celebrated annually in February in the US, is an opportunity to celebrate Black voices, achievements, and to reflect on the central role of African Americans throughout US history. Princeton University Press is proud to publish books that engage with serious issues and ideas relating to Black experiences. 

When #BlackLivesMatter emerged in 2013, it animated the most consequential Black-led mobilization since the civil rights and Black power era. Today, the hashtag turned rallying cry is but one expression of a radical reorientation toward Black politics, protest, and political thought. To Build a Black Future examines the spirit and significance of this insurgency, offering a revelatory account of a new political culture—responsive to pain, suffused with joy, and premised on care—emerging from the centuries-long arc of Black rebellion, a tradition that traces back to the Black slave.

In Impermanent Blackness, Korey Garibaldi explores interracial collaborations in American commercial publishing—authors, agents, and publishers who forged partnerships across racial lines—from the 1910s to the 1960s. Garibaldi shows how aspiring and established Black authors and editors worked closely with white interlocutors to achieve publishing success, often challenging stereotypes and advancing racial pluralism in the process.

Long before the pandemic, Ruha Benjamin was doing groundbreaking research on race, technology, and justice, focusing on big, structural changes. But the twin plagues of COVID-19 and anti-Black police violence inspired her to rethink the importance of small, individual actions. Part memoir, part manifesto, Viral Justice is a sweeping and deeply personal exploration of how we can transform society through the choices we make every day.

A major poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906) was one of the first African American writers to garner international recognition in the wake of emancipation. In this definitive biography, the first full-scale life of Dunbar in half a century, Gene Andrew Jarrett offers a revelatory account of a writer whose Gilded Age celebrity as the “poet laureate of his race” hid the private struggles of a man who, in the words of his famous poem, felt like a “caged bird” that sings.

In the post–civil rights era, wide-ranging groups have made civil rights claims that echo those made by Black civil rights activists of the 1960s, from people with disabilities to women’s rights activists and LGBTQ coalitions. Increasingly since the 1980s, white, right-wing social movements, from family values coalitions to the alt-right, now claim the collective memory of civil rights to portray themselves as the newly oppressed minorities. The Struggle for the People’s King reveals how, as these powerful groups remake collective memory toward competing political ends, they generate offshoots of remembrance that distort history and threaten the very foundations of multicultural democracy.

Could the African American political tradition save American democracy? African Americans have had every reason to reject America’s democratic experiment. Yet African American activists, intellectuals, and artists who have sought to transform the United States into a racially just society have put forward some of the most original and powerful ideas about how to make America live up to its democratic ideals. In The Darkened Light of Faith, Melvin Rogers provides a bold new account of African American political thought through the works and lives of individuals who built this vital tradition—a tradition that is urgently needed today.

Before Modernism examines how Black poetics, in antagonism with White poetics in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, produced the conditions for the invention of modern American poetry. Through inspired readings of the poetry of Phillis Wheatley Peters, George Moses Horton, Ann Plato, James Monroe Whitfield, and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper—as well as the poetry of neglected but once popular White poets William Cullen Bryant and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow—Virginia Jackson demonstrates how Black poets inspired the direction that American poetics has taken for the past two centuries. 

Some of America’s most pressing civil rights issues—desegregation, equal educational and employment opportunities, housing discrimination, and free speech—have been closely intertwined with higher education institutions. Although it is commonly known that college students and other activists, as well as politicians, actively participated in the fight for and against civil rights in the middle decades of the twentieth century, historical accounts have not adequately focused on the roles that the nation’s college presidents played in the debates concerning racism. Based on archival research conducted at a range of colleges and universities across the United States, The Campus Color Line sheds light on the important place of college presidents in the struggle for racial parity.

Beatriz Nascimento (1942–1995) was a poet, historian, artist, and political leader in Brazil’s Black movement, an innovative and creative thinker whose work offers a radical reimagining of gender, space, politics, and spirituality around the Atlantic and across the Black diaspora. Her powerful voice still resonates today, reflecting a deep commitment to political organizing, revisionist historiography, and the lived experience of Black women. The Dialectic Is in the Sea is the first English-language collection of writings by this vitally important figure in the global tradition of Black radical thought.

In democracies, citizens must accept loss; we can’t always be on the winning side. But in the United States, the fundamental civic capacity of being able to lose is not distributed equally. Propped up by white supremacy, whites (as a group) are accustomed to winning; they have generally been able to exercise political rule without having to accept sharing it. Black citizens, on the other hand, are expected to be political heroes whose civic suffering enables progress toward racial justice. In this book, Juliet Hooker, a leading thinker on democracy and race, argues that the two most important forces driving racial politics in the United States today are Black grief and white grievance.