Cover

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pp. 1-7

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction

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pp. ix-xxii

It was in the immediate wake of destruction, loss, and dispossession wrought by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina that performing and recording artist Erykah Badu stopped the clock on the progress of black public protest. Called to stage to sing her own “Time’s a Wastin” at a televised rally organized by the Millions More Movement to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Million Man March, ...

Part I. Charisma

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1. Restaging the Charismatic Scenario: Fictions of African American Leadership

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pp. 3-34

A sustained engagement with the multifarious experiences, perspectives, movements, stories, and players that make up the contemporary history of black American movements for social change and political progress requires both historicizing and disposing of the fiction that social transformation is impossible in the absence of singular charismatic leadership. ...

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2. Leadership’s Looks: The Aesthetics of Black Political Modernity

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pp. 35-74

When literary critic Henry Louis Gates Jr. lamented that that black Americans could not seem to “agree on what leadership should look like” as the twentieth century neared its close, he signaled a century-long anxiety about how race men would look while representing the race.1 ...

Part II. Contestations

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3. Moses, Monster of the Mountain: Gendered Violence in Zora Neale Hurston’s Gothic

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pp. 77-104

One of the most compelling fictions of twentieth-century black political culture is the fantasy of charismatic leadership, the idea that political advancement is best achieved under the direction of a single male leader believed to be gifted with a privileged connection to the divine. ...

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4. Disappearing the Leader: The Vanishing Spectacle in Civil Rights Fiction

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pp. 105-132

In a chilling scene at the end of William Melvin Kelley’s 1962 novel, A Different Drummer, a slick Northern preacher is forced to sing and dance for a mob of white men who have decided that the black residents of their Southern town who have followed the silent, puzzling actions of a quiet, boyish twenty-two-year-old ...

Part III. Curiosities

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5. “Cyanide in the Kool-Aid”: Black Politics and Popular Culture after Civil Rights

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pp. 135-166

The story of the African American freedom struggle most often invoked in contemporary popular, mass-mediated accounts of the civil rights movement features a series of charismatic spectacles that build on the ancient symbology of the Exodus myth, the cultural repertoire of black political modernity, and the news reporting of post–World War II black protest. ...

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6. Claim Ticket Lost: Toni Morrison’s Paradise and African American Literature’s Holy Hollow

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pp. 167-186

Days after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the U.S. Gulf Coast in September 2005, leaving hundreds of thousands of people dispossessed as the scenes of New Orleans under water captured television sets and newspaper headlines, I was having a conversation about the “active abandonment” of black New Orleanians ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 187-194

When Oprah Winfrey, charismatic in her own right, officially joined the campaign for Barack Obama’s presidential bid in December 2007, she made back-to-back appearances in Des Moines, Iowa, and Columbia, South Carolina, lending her formidable cultural authority to electoral politics—as she called it, “stepping out of her pew”—for the first time in her decades-long career. ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 195-198

I owe thanks to so many who have enabled and in every way enriched the writing of this book that began as a dissertation at Duke University. Maurice Wallace was this book’s earliest and most earnest supporter and helped me discover the best in my thought and writing. ...

Notes

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pp. 199-232

Index

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pp. 233-249