This timely and gorgeously illustrated companion book to an exciting Smithsonian exhibition explores the power of Afrofuturism to reclaim the past and reimagine Black futures
Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures explores the evolving and exhilarating concept of Afrofuturism, a lens used to imagine a more empowering future for the Black community through music, art, and speculative fiction. Sumptuous, beautifully designed spreads feature 100 gorgeous illustrations of objects and images that reflect Black identity, agency, creativity, and hope, including: T’Challa’s suit from Black Panther, Octavia Butler’s typewriter, Uhura’s outfit from Star Trek, Sun Ra’s space harp, costumes from Broadway’s The Wiz, handwritten lyrics by Jimi Hendrix, and Janelle Monae’s ArchAndroid dress.
Chapters include essays from a diverse group of scholars who reflect on themes such as legacy, alienation, and activism, with profiles on influential people and objects:
Foreword & Introduction:Provides background on Afrofuturism
Chapter 1 - Space is the Place: Reflects on space and its defining connection to Afrofuturism and its African cultural legacy
Chapter 2 - Speculative Worlds: Explores short stories, Black speculative fiction and sci-fi, comics, and Black superheroes as bastions of Afrofuturist expression
Chapter 3 - Visualizing Afrofuturism: Analyzes the vast visual culture of Afrofuturism
Chapter 4 - Musical Futures: Explores Afrofuturism and music
Afrofuturism offers a framework of radical potential to envision Black liberation and alternatives to oppressive structures like white supremacy. Afrofuturism comes at a time of increasing visibility for the concept, both in scholarship and in pop culture, and is a compelling ode to the revolutionary power of Black imagination.
CONTRIBUTORS: Reynaldo Anderson, Tiﬀany E. Barber, Herb Boyd, Ariana Curtis, Eve L. Ewing, Tuliza Fleming, Nona Hendryx, N. K. Jemisin, John Jennings, Steven Lewis, Mark Anthony Neal, Alondra Nelson, De Nichols, Elaine Nichols, William S. Pretzer, Vernon Reid, Matthew Shindell, Kevin M. Strait, Angela Tate, Michelle Wilkinson, Ytasha L. Womack, Alisha B. Wormsley, and Kevin Young
About the Author
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. KEVIN STRAIT is a museum curator who has worked on the permanent exhibitions "Musical Crossroads" and the "Power of Place,” as well as leading the Afrofuturism exhibition. KINSHASHA HOLMAN CONWILL is deputy director emerita of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
BOOKLIST, STARRED REVIEW "This fascinating, eye-popping collection of essays and imagery [...] displays the range of art, literature, and music that defines the Afrofuturist aesthetic."
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY "This stunning collection conveys the range, creativity, and dynamism of Afrofuturism and demonstrates its profound impact on popular culture. [...] Bursting with bold, captivating images and smart criticism, this is an inspiring tribute to a revolutionary way of looking at the world."
SACRAMENTO OBSERVER "The narrative that Blacks don’t exist in the future is a story told by other people. And as others try to recraft history for their own comfort, we must continue to be the keepers of our own image. Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures is us speaking our own truth: we’ve been here and will continue to be."
SCIENCE FICTION STUDIES "Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures is quite the achievement—an accessible text that educates readers on the past, present, and future of the Afrofuturist movement. [...] a much-needed educational resource and a rallying cry for the public to recognize Afrofuturism as both an aesthetic movement and a way of seeing the world."
THE BLACK THEATER REVIEW "At a time where space travel is now literal and seems to have billionaire status as a prerequisite, this book proves that Black people have been beyond time and space and bent them to our liking to return over the course of many generations and lifetimes to write, sing, and shout about it. Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures is a definitive assertion that we will continue to do so."
“When Sun Ra said ‘Space is the Place,’ he was referring to both outer and inner space, the place where the mind escapes the body and soars out in search of love and meaning. This book renders that outer/inner space in tangible form, encapsulating generations of words, sounds, and images that define Afrofuturism.” — Nelson George,filmmaker and author of The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture and Style
“Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures is a visually stunning and profoundly informative work that offers insight into the definition and practice of Afrofuturism. Its contemporary voices provide depth and clarity for readers searching to understand this complex subject. Filled with enlightening essays, insightful profiles, and archival materials that evoke the transformative vision linked to Afrofuturism, the book presents revealing intersections that illustrate how progressive Black visions shaped past actions, articulate present-day concerns, and offer potentially better futures.” — Julian Chambliss,curator, Beyond the Black Panther: Visions of Afrofuturism in American Comics exhibition
“Between these covers, you will find a variety of perspectives on Afrofuturism—its roots and origins as well as its journey through the past and present and on through the future—using words, sounds (evoked), and visuals from dyed-in-the-wool Afrofuturists along with scholars, historians, and artists. Whether you are new to Afrofuturism, a futurist, or some space in between, Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures will teach, inspire, and compel. I encourage you to savor this four-course meal of a book.” — LaWana Richmond, cofounder and organizer of Afrofuturism Lounge and founder of AfroCon
“Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures is easily one of the best texts ever produced on the topic. It provides a tour through the history, anatomy, and imagination of this great movement. The work is scholarly, rhythmic, and artful and offers us the opportunity to engage Afrofuturism’s rich history in all its forms through its many influences and progenitors. A welcome addition to every collection!” — C. Brandon Ogbunu, technologist and computational biologist at Yale University