Room 220 Syllabus: Supplemental Reading


Take a virtual independent study, Blackness in Revolt with the Room 220 Staff. Here are a few texts to get your started.

1. Silencing the Past (20th anniversary edition)


Foreword by Hazel V. Carby
A modern classic about power and the making of history, with a new foreword by a prominent scholar
“Placing the West’s failure to acknowledge the most successful slave revolt in history alongside denials of the Holocaust and the debates over the Alamo and Christopher Columbus, Michel-Rolph Trouillot offers a stunning meditation on how power operates in the making and recording of history. Presented here with a new foreword by renowned scholar Hazel V. Carby, Silencing the Past is an indispensable analysis of the silences in our historical narratives, of what is omitted and what is recorded, what is remembered and what is forgotten, and what these silences reveal about inequalities of power.”

2. The Black Woman’s Role in the Community of Slaves


“Taking as points of inspiration Peter Parish’s 1989 book, Slavery: History and Historians, and Angela Davis’s seminal 1971 article, “Reflections on the black woman’s role in the community of slaves,” this probes both historiographically and methodologically some of the challenges faced by historians writing about the lives of enslaved women through a case study of intimate partner violence among enslaved people in the antebellum South. Because rape and sexual assault have been defined in the past as non-consensual sexual acts supported by surviving legal evidence (generally testimony from court trials), it is hard for historians to research rape and sexual violence under slavery (especially marital rape) as there was no legal standing for the rape of enslaved women or the rape of any woman within marriage. This article suggests enslaved women recognized that black men could both be perpetrators of sexual violence and simultaneously be victims of the system of slavery. It also argues women stoically tolerated being forced into intimate relationships, sometimes even staying with “husbands” imposed upon them after emancipation.”

3. Black New Orleans, 1860-1880


Black New Orleans explores the twenty-year period in which the city’s black population more than doubled. Meticulously researched and replete with archival illustrations from newspapers and rare periodicals, John W. Blassingame’s groundbreaking history offers a unique look at the economic and social life of black people in New Orleans during Reconstruction. Not a conventional political treatment, Blassingame’s history instead emphasizes the educational, religious, cultural, and economic activities of African Americans during the late nineteenth century.”

4. Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle


“Explores how black women’s geographies are meaningful sites of political opposition

Demonic Grounds moves between past and present, archives and fiction, theory and everyday, to focus on places negotiated by black women during and after the transatlantic slave trade. Specifically, Katherine McKittrick addresses the geographic implications of slave auction blocks, Harriet Jacobs’s attic, black Canada and New France, as well as the conceptual spaces of feminism and Sylvia Wynter’s philosophies. 

Katherine McKittrick rejoins and initiates the completion of the uncompleted challenges originally made from the perspective of the global anticolonial, anti-imperial struggles, as well as of the anti-apartheid and other movements of the sixties.”

Sylvia Wynter, Stanford University 

5. Development, Drowned, and Reborn: The Blues and Bourbon Restorations in Post-Katrina New Orleans


Development Drowned and Reborn is a “Blues geography” of New Orleans, one that compels readers to return to the history of the Black freedom struggle there to reckon with its unfinished business. Reading contemporary policies of abandonment against the grain, Clyde Woods explores how Hurricane Katrina brought long-standing structures of domination into view. In so doing, Woods delineates the roots of neoliberalism in the region and a history of resistance.

Written in dialogue with social movements, this book offers tools for comprehending the racist dynamics of U.S. culture and economy. Following his landmark study, Development Arrested, Woods turns to organic intellectuals, Blues musicians, and poor and working people to instruct readers in this future-oriented history of struggle. Through this unique optic, Woods delineates a history, methodology, and epistemology to grasp alternative visions of development.

Woods contributes to debates about the history and geography of neoliberalism. The book suggests that the prevailing focus on neoliberalism at national and global scales has led to a neglect of the regional scale. Specifically, it observes that theories of neoliberalism have tended to overlook New Orleans as an epicenter where racial, class, gender, and regional hierarchies have persisted for centuries. Through this Blues geography, Woods excavates the struggle for a new society.”

6. Afropessimism


“Why does race seem to color almost every feature of our moral and political universe? Why does a perpetual cycle of slavery—in all its political, intellectual, and cultural forms—continue to define the Black experience? And why is anti-Black violence such a predominant feature not only in the United States but around the world? These are just some of the compelling questions that animate Afropessimism, Frank B. Wilderson III’s seminal work on the philosophy of Blackness.

Combining precise philosophy with a torrent of memories, Wilderson presents the tenets of an increasingly prominent intellectual movement that sees Blackness through the lens of perpetual slavery. Drawing on works of philosophy, literature, film, and critical theory, he shows that the social construct of slavery, as seen through pervasive anti-Black subjugation and violence, is hardly a relic of the past but the very engine that powers our civilization, and that without this master-slave dynamic, the calculus bolstering world civilization would collapse. Unlike any other disenfranchised group, Wilderson argues, Blacks alone will remain essentially slaves in the larger Human world, where they can never be truly regarded as Human beings, where, “at every scale of abstraction, violence saturates Black life.”

7. On Racial Capitalism, Black Internationalism, and Cultures of Resistance


“Cedric J. Robinson is considered one of the doyens of Black Studies and a pioneer in study of the Black Radical Tradition. His works have been essential texts, deconstructing racial capitalism and inspiring insurgent movements from Ferguson to the West Bank. For the first time, Robinson’s essays come together, spanning over four decades and reflective of his diverse interests in the interconnections between culture and politics, radical social theory and classic and modern political philosophy. Themes explored include Africa and Black internationalism, World politics, race and US Foreign Policy, representations of Blackness in popular culture, and reflections on popular resistance to racial capitalism, white supremacy and more. Accompanied by an introduction by H. L. T. Quan and a foreword by Ruth Wilson Gilmore, this collection, which includes previously unpublished materials, extends the many contributions by a giant in Black radical thought”