The title of this work illuminates its priorities. Black utopia is the idea under consideration, a previously “unseen” (p. 2) tradition that the author, Alex Zamalin, has uncovered. Black nationalism and Afrofuturism are rendered not as ideas in their own right but as eras that frame the temporal scope of black utopian thinking. They are the space through which black utopian thought moves.
Zamalin writes that the goal of Black Utopia is “as much to understand the boundaries of the black political and cultural imagination as it is to see what lessons it has for contemporary political life” (p. 18). The latter goal is far more successfully achieved. Zamalin identifies the origins of the “black utopian vision” (p. 7) in the mid-nineteenth-century writing of Martin Delany, and he explores the themes and priorities of utopian and antiutopian writing in subsequent chapters on turn-of-the-century novelists such as Sutton E. Griggs and Pauline Hopkins, the fiction writing of W. E. B. Du Bois, the satirical work of George Schuyler, Richard Wright’s Black Power, the art and aesthetics of Sun Ra, and the science fiction writing of Samuel R. Delany and Octavia Butler.
These texts, Zamalin argues, reveal both the value an
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