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I contend that Richard Bruce Nugent embodied dilettantism as a challenge to the professionalist ideologies of racial uplift. Examining Nugent’s writings and biography, I locate his dilettantism in his refusal to specialize in an art and in his disinclination to publish his work. I also locate his dilettantism in his short story “Smoke, Lilies and Jade,” wherein his ellipses become a stylistic of failure and laziness that rejects the logics of bourgeois progress and history-making. Repudiating the burden of making history, Nugent’s dilettantism afforded him a creative agency to foster a black queer aesthetic in both his life and art.