Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

These are people who cheer me along with song, prayer, hugs, and other expressions of thoughtfulness, love, and grace.
I take every opportunity to thank Joseph Brown S.J., whose guidance, friendship, insights, and gift of verse keep on giving. Ken Warren is always there to help me make sense of my own ideas. Our relationship is special, and I cherish it. I am a better colleague and scholar and contributor to our profession because of him. Gordon Hutner is that fortifying...

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Prologue: Black Aesthetics and the Personal

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pp. 1-8

Frank Embree’s violent end stands out. In the tour of lynching photographs titled Without Sanctuary, Embree stands alive, not dead.1 The other men in the tour photos hang limp and lifeless. Embree is beaten, badly wounded, but somehow sturdy as he stares into the camera. The white mob whipped and tortured Embree into confessing that he raped a white teenage girl. Embree’s tortured confession is just one more reminder of how lynchings cruelly dehumanized men and women....

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1 / The Violence Inside

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pp. 9-46

Abraham Lincoln could never deny the ghastly horror of mob law after he witnessed dead men hanging “from the boughs of trees upon every road side; and in numbers . . . to rival the native Spanish moss of the country, as a drapery of the forest.”1 Dead black multitudes, suspended from trees, dismembered and lifeless, multiplied in the decades after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation (1863). Violence against blacks in the South, rivaling the atrocities in landmark antebellum books...

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2 / The Beast within the City

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pp. 47-110

Black artists and intellectuals expressed the inner life of the Negro during the era of racial uplift across pamphlets, novels, essays, and visual culture. It is precisely my point that vibrant racial uplift discourses housed radical expressions of what it means to be a person— expressions from Wells, Cooper, and Chesnutt, which encouraged the distinctiveness of personal insight that actually obscured futures based on black collective politics. In this next chapter, I turn away from racial uplift and move...

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Interlude: The Afro Samurai’s Symptom

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pp. 111-115

Afro Samurai is, at least, one example of one of Ellison’s key insights in “Little Man at Cheehaw Station.” Ellison wrote that black people exemplify fluid mixes of the modern cultures they are exposed to, such as white, black, and Japanese in this case. While it is not clear that the Japanese creator of the anime miniseries Afro Samurai, Takashi Okazaki, ever read Ellison or other black writers, he always loved the black culture of the 1970s and 1980s.1 Samuel L. Jackson, cocreator and the voice...

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4 / Past the Chokecherry Tree

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pp. 116-144

Afro Samurai carries his past with him. He watched his father’s last fight end with decapitation. As a boy, Afro carried his father’s head with him in a sack until the sack was ripped from his hands— the trauma, memory, and history all marked in the heavy fleshy head of his dead father. The head is a flesh marker of Afro’s wounded interiority that his revenge killings fail to assuage. The violent history of his father’s decapitation neither gets addressed nor fully heals. The flesh in Toni Morrison’s...

Notes

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pp. 145-156

Index

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pp. 157-160