Black Phoenix Rising: Death and Resurrection of Black Lives

Professor Anthony Hatch

Science in Society Program/African American Studies/Sociology

Wesleyan University


In the face of violent anti-black forms of institutionalized racism, black people are forced to find new ways to refuse being killed. Yet, in the wake of successful racist killings, the deaths of black people take on new meanings that give life and hope to those who survive. The deaths of black people become sources of collective and symbolic power for the living. Positioning the Black Lives Matter Movement in the context of necropolitics helps renew our collective need to theorize the value and meaning of black lives within a deluge of death and disappearance in black communities. This movement is part of a broader intellectual tradition in black radical praxis that aims to transform scholarly, activist, and public discourse and public policies concerning anti-black racisms and the prospects for antiracist futures. By drawing on these broader traditions, this course envisions a black radical praxis that simultaneously recognizes how black people resist death and transform symbolic meanings of death in ways that push back against anti-black racisms. This is an experimental seminar that serves as a base of operations for faculty-student research and a larger, culminating, and collaborative creative arts project.


  1. Develop broad knowledge of black radical traditions in scholarship and cultural arts;
  2. Learn and apply basic research techniques in narrative sociology;
  3. Apply knowledge and research techniques to create a collaborative, interdisciplinary creative arts project.


Britt Russert. Fugitive Science: Empiricism and Freedom in Early African American Culture. New York: NYU Press, 2017.

Christina Sharpe. 2016. In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. Durham: Duke University Press.

Gaye Theresa Johnson and Alex Lubin (editors). Futures of Black Radicalism. New York: Verso, 2017.



Our seminar is organized around the creation of a research-based collaborative arts project. With generous funding from the Wesleyan Center for the Arts and the Center for the Humanities, our class will feature a Creative Campus Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration with an artist an educator, Mr. Ernesto Cuevas, Jr.  Mr. Cuevas is a graphic designer, illustrator, educator, organizer, community and studio artist, and after-school program facilitator. He was born in Harlingen, Texas and raised in Plant City, Florida, a city known for its large migrant community. He holds a B.A. in Studio Art from Dartmouth College. Mr. Cuevas utilizes art as a tool for critical self-expression and community empowerment. His mission is to produce art and design through traditional and digital media that impacts society and inspires its audience. He was the founder of a community arts program that facilitated spaces of self-reflection through collaborative creative experiences. He directed development of an after-school program that utilized arts, culture and leadership as a means for academic success. Recently he served as the Art Instructor of a K-8 art program at a Southside charter school in San Antonio, Texas. Currently, he works as a freelance artist, designer, and illustrator, focused on projects that have a positive impact on community.

In the words of mythologist Joseph Campbell, “The image carries more reality than the word.” That is the spirit in which I want us to explore black people’s practices of survival in the face of anti-black violence. In fact, black radical traditions cohere through powerful images of African American resistance and survival—like the images of non-violent marchers being hosed by state troopers, the images of protestors facing off against militarized police, and the images of young students quietly studying in a newly desegregated library. Many of those images, rendered in collage form by artists like Romare Bearden and in lyrical/musical form by artists like Tupac Shakur, tell powerful stories of African Americans who entered into a contested relationship with suffering and death.

In my fields of expertise and inquiry (sociology, science and technology studies, and, to a lesser degree, African American studies), there can be an over reliance on the written word (both in numerical and typographic forms) as the best medium for critically interrogating and narrating African Americans’ lives. Wesleyan students’ exposures to critical sociological ideas about racism in the context of African American lives should not be limited to the words written by intellectuals, but should extend into the realms of the cultural, the imaginary, and the auditory. That said, intellectuals’ ideas can be a useful starting point for thinking about survival, transformation, and freedom.

We are going to explore new ways of understanding and representing African Americans’ practices of resistance against racism and the premature death it generates. Based on this pedagogical vision for the intellectual and creative collaboration in this course, we will explore African Americans’ practices of resisting death and the symbolic meanings of death in African American social life and culture.

Over the summer, I reached out to Mr. Ernesto Cuevas (see his bio below) about the possibility of working with us to create a series of physical/digital posters that tell the stories of black people who refused to be killed and what those stories mean for how we make meaning of and survive racism. This is a starting point for this project. Together, these posters might form a mural that will exhibit on campus in hard form and via social media in digital form. We envision that these posters might form the basis for a book of graphic non-fiction that we co-author together with Wesleyan students. The exact direction and form of our collaborative arts project will unfold and evolve over the semester.

Mr. Cuevas is going to create a title image, posters, and digital art for us; produce an instructional guide for you about how to create your own graphic stories; facilitate students’ creation of a series of images for a work of graphic non-fiction; and visit our seminar and co-teaching a module on community art and activism. Mr. Cuevas and I will co-teach one full in-person seminar on storytelling, community art, and activism on October 19 (tentative). Second, we will hold a second “virtual” seminar in which we consult with Mr. Cuevas about our ongoing primary research as it informs our creative production. Mr. Cuevas will remain engaged with us via a shared private website in which we will be developing our course work (


Course calendar


WEEK TWO. #BlackLivesMatter in Context

 Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. “Black Lives Matter is a Movement, Not a Moment,” pp. 153-190 in From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2016.

Wesley Lowery. They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2016.

Achille Mbembe. 2003. “Necropolitics.” Public Culture 15:11-40.

 WEEK THREE. Black Radical Traditions I

Gaye Theresa Johnson and Alex Lubin (editors). Futures of Black Radicalism. New York: Verso, 2017.

 WEEK FOUR. Black Radical Traditions II

Cedric Robinson. Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000 (original 1983).

Robin D.G. Kelley. Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination. Boston: Beacon Press, 2002.

Barbara Ransby. Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.



WEEK FIVE. Exploring the Narrative Turn and Visual Analysis

Francesca Polleta, Pang Ching Bobby Chen, Beth Charity Gardner, and Alice Motes. 2011. “The Sociology of Storytelling.” Annual Review of Sociology 37: 109-130, 2011.

Norman Denzin. 2016. “Critical Qualitative Inquiry.” Qualitative Inquiry 23(1): 8-16.

Barbara Harris Combs, Kirsten Dellinger, Jeffrey T. Jackson, Kirk A. Johnson, Willa M. Johnson, Jodi Skipper, John Sonnett, James M. Thomas, Critical Race Studies Group, University of Mississippi. 2016. “The Symbolic Lynching of James Meredith.” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 2(3): 338-353.

WEEK SIX. Graphic Storytelling

(H)afrocentric Comics (2017), March (2013), Signal: A journal of international political graphics & culture (Periodical), Inhuman traffic (2014), Don Brown. Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2017, Queer: A Graphic History (2016), Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling (2012), The Real Cost of Prisons Comix (2008).

WEEK SEVEN. Community Art and Activism (with Ernesto Cuevas, Jr.)

Selections from Signal: A Journal of International Political Graphics and Culture

Dunn, Alec and MacPhee, Josh. 2010. Taller Tupac Amaru: The Future of Xicana Printmaking, p6-37, PM Press.



 WEEK EIGHT. Contesting Race Science

 Britt Russert. Fugitive Science: Empiricism and Freedom in Early African American Culture. New York: NYU Press, 2017.

 WEEK NINE. Youthful Bodies and Activism

Andreana Clay. The Hip Hop Generation Fights Back: Youth, Activism, and Post-Civil Rights Politics. New York: New York University Press, 2012.

WEEK TEN. Healing Psychic Wounds

 Christina Sharpe. 2016. In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. Durham: Duke University Press.

 WEEK ELEVEN. Armed and Relentless Struggle

Robert F. Williams. Negroes With Guns. Mansfield Centre: Martino Publishing, 2013 (original 1962).

Charles E. Cobb, Jr. This Non Violent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015.

Akinyele Omowale Umoja. We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement. New York: New York University Press, 2014.

WEEK THIRTEEN. Rising From the Ashes

W.E.B. Du Bois. The Souls of Black Folk. Seattle: Amazon Classics, 2017 (original 1903).

David Walker. Walker’s Appeal, in Four Articles; Together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World, but in Particular, and Very Expressly, to Those of the United States of America, Written in Boston, State of Massachusetts, September 28, 1829.






 #Black Lives Matter in Context

Rayshawn Ray, Melissa Brown, and Wendy Laybourn. 2017. “The evolution of #BlackLivesMatter on Twitter: social movements, big data, and race.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 40(11): 1795-1796.

Chris Lebron. The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an Idea. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017.

 Micah White. The End of Protest: A New Playbook for Revolution. Toronto: Knopf Canada, 2016.

 Angela Y. Davis. Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2016.



Christen Smith. 2016. “Facing the Dragon: Black Mothering, Sequelae, and Gendered Necropolitics in the Americas,” Transforming Anthropology, 24(1): 31-48.

Banu Bargu. 2016. Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons. New York: Columbia University Press.

Georgio Agamben. 2005. State of Exception (Translated by Kevin Attell). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Georgio Agamben. 1998. Homo sacer: Sovereign power and bare life. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Achille Mbembe. 2017. Critique of Black Reason. Durham: Duke University Press.

Achille Mbembe. 2001. On the Postcolony. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Patricia T. Clough and Craig Willse. 2011. Beyond Biopolitics: Essays on the Governance of Life and Death. Durham: Duke University Press.

Francois Debrix and Alexander D. Barder. 2011. Beyond Biopolitics: Theory, Violence, and Horror in World Politics. New York: Routledge.


Black Radical Traditions, LP

Cedric Robinson. Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000 (original 1983).

Cathy J. Cohen. Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Eddie Glaude, Jr. Democracy In Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul. New York: Crown, 2016.

Catherine Morris and Rujeko Hockley (editors). We Wanted A Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017.

Aimee Meredith Cox. 2015. Shapeshifters: Black Girls and the Choreography of Citizenship. Durham: Duke University Press.

Lester K. Spence. Knocking the Hustle: Against the Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics. Brooklyn: Punctum Books, 2015.

Delany, Martin R. 1993/1852. The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States. Baltimore: Black Classic Press.

Aldon Morris. The Scholar Denied: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology. Oakland: University of California Press, 2015.

 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cornell West (editor). The Radical King. Boston: Beacon Press, 2016.

James Baldwin. The Fire Next Time. New York: Vintage, 1993 (original, 1962).

Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields. Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life. London: Verso Books, 2014.

Derrick Bell, Jr., And We Are Not Saved: The Elusive Quest for Racial Justice. New York: Basic Books, 1989.

Derrick Bell, Jr. Silent Covenants: Brown v. Board of Education and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Barbara Ransby. Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

C.L.R. (Cyril Lionel Robert) James. 1989. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouveture and the San Domingo Revolution. New York: Vintage, 1989.

C.L.R. (Cyril Lionel Robert) James. A History of Pan-African Revolt. Oakland: PM Press, 2012 (original 1938).


Black Musical Forms and Culture

Angela Y. Davis. Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday. New York: Vintage, 1999 (original 1998).

Albert Murray. Stompin’ the Blues. New York: Da Capo Press, 2000 (original 1976).

Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka). Blues People: Negro Music in White America. New York: Harper Perennial, 1999 (original 1963).

George Nelson. Hip Hop America. New York: Penguin, 2005 (original 1998).

Brittany C. Cooper, Susana M. Morris, and Robin M. Boylorn. The Crunk Feminist Collection. New York: The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2017.

Tricia Rose. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1994.

M.K. Asante, Jr. It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop: The Rise of the Post-Hip-Hop Generation. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2008.

Jeffery O.G. Ogbar. Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2007.

Patricia Hill Collins. From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006.

Lester K. Spence. Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip Hop and Black Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.


Criminal Injustice Systems

Katherine McKittrick. “On Plantations, Prisons, and a Black Sense of Place.” Social and Cultural Geography 12 (8): 947-963.

Heather Ann Thompson. Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy. New York: Vintage, 2017.

Talitha L. LeFlouria. Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016.

Sarah Haley. No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016.

Jordan T. Camp and Christina Heatherton (editors). Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis led to Black Lives Matter. New York: Verso, 2016.


Contesting Race Science

Ibram X. Kendi. Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. New York: Nation Books, 2016.

Ruha Benjamin. People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013.

Alondra Nelson. The Social Life of DNA. Boston: Beacon Press, 2016.

Troy Duster. 2003. Backdoor to Eugenics (2nd edition).  New York: Routledge. (Original, 1990)

Kyla Wazana Thompkins. Racial Indigestion: Eating Bodies in the 19th Century. New York: NYU Press, 2012.

Anthony Ryan Hatch. Blood Sugar: Racial Pharmacology and Food Justice in Black America. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016.


Black Liberation and Spirituality

James H. Cone. The Cross and the Lynching Tree. New York: Orbis Books, 2011.

Delores S. Williams. Sisters in the Wilderness. The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk. New York: Orbis Books, 2013 (original 1993).

Patricia Hill Collins. Black Feminist  Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge, 2014 (Original 1990).


The Black Panther Party

Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr. Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party. Oakland: University of California Press, 2013.

Kwame Ture (formerly known as Stokely Carmichael) and Charles V. Hamilton. Black Power: The Politics of Liberation. New York: Vintage, 1992 (original 1967, Random House).

Robyn C. Spencer. The Revolution Has Come: Black Power, Gender, and the Black Panther Party in Oakland. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016.

Alondra Nelson. Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.


Healing Psychic Wounds

Soyica Diggs Colbert, Robert J. Patterson, and Adia Levy-Hussen (eds) The psychic hold of slavery: Legacies in American Expressive Culture. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2016.

Akbar, Na’im. 1984. Chains and Images of Psychosocial Slavery. Tallahassee: Mind Productions & Associates.


Cultural Studies of Black Nationalism

Dubey, M. (2001). “Postmodernism as Postnationalism? Racial Representation in U.S. Black Cultural Studies.The Black Scholar 33(1): 2-18.

hooks, bell. 1990. “Postmodern Blackness”  in Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics. Boston: South End Press.

Karenga, Maulana N. 1977. Introduction to Black Studies. Los Angeles: University of Sankore Press.

Lemelle, Sidney J. 1994. “The Politics of Cultural Existence: Pan-Africanism, Historical Materialism, and Afrocentricity.” In Sidney J. Lemelle and Robin D.G. Kelley (eds), Imagining Home: Class, Culture, and Nationalism in the African Diaspora. New York:.

Madhubuti, Haki R. 1994. Claiming earth: race, rage, rape, redemption: Blacks seeking a culture of enlightened empowerment. Chicago: Third World Press.

Moses, Wilson J. 1998. Afrotopia: The Roots of African American Popular Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lemelle, Anthony J. Jr. 2001. “Oliver Cromwell Cox: Toward A Pan-Africanist Epistemology of Community Action.” Journal of Black Studies 31(3):325-347.

Moses, Wilson J. 1978. The Golden Age of Black Nationalism, 1850-1925. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Robinson, Dean E. 2001. Black Nationalism in American Politics and Thought. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Shelby, Tommie. 2003. “Race, Nation, and Responsibility: Two Conceptions of Black Nationalism: Martin Delany on the Meaning of Black Political Solidarity.” Political Theory 31:664-692.


Autobiographies, Biographies, and Memoirs

Jamil Al-Amin. 1969. Die Nigger Die!: A Political Autobiograpgy of Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin. New York: Dial Press.

Assata Shakur. Assata Shakur: An Autobiography. Chicago: Zed Books, 1987.

Sabrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin. New York: Speigel and Grau, 2017.

Susan Burton and Cari Lynn. Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women. New York: The New Press, 2017.

Lezley McSpadden. Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil: The Life, Legacy, and Love of My Son Michael Brown. New York: Regan Arts, 2016.

Huey P. Newton. Revolutionary Suicide. New York: Penguin, 2009 (original, 1973).

Malcolm X and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley. New York: Ballantine Books, 1999 (original 1964).

Tayannah Lee McQuillar and Fred L. Johnson. Tupac Shakur: The Life and Times of An American Icon. Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2010.

Stanley Tookie Williams. Blue Rage, Black Redemption: A Memoir. New York: Touchstone, 2007.

George Jackson. Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1994 (original 1970).

Eldridge Cleaver. Soul on Ice. New York: Delta, 1992 (original 1968).

Angela Y. Davis. Angela Davis: An Autobiography. New York: International Publishers, 2013

Peniel E. Joseph. Stokely: A Life. New York: Civitas Books, 2014.

Stokely Carmichael. Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture). New York: Scribner, 2005.

Manning Marable. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. New York: Penguin, 2011.

Timothy B. Tyson. The Blood of Emmett Till. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017.


The Racial Politics of Capitalism 

Daina Ramey Berry. The Price for their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation. Boston: Beacon Press, 2017.

Edward Baptist. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. New York: Basic Books, 2016.

Marable, Manning. 1983. How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America. Boston: South End Press.

 John Henrik Clarke. 2011. Christopher Columbus and the Afrikan Holocaust: Slavery and the Rise of European Capitalism.

Franklin Fraizer. Black Bourgeois: The Book That Brought the Shock of Revelation to Middle-Class Blacks in America. New York: Free Press, 1997 (original 1957).

Margo Anderson. Negroland: A Memoir. New York: Vintage, 2016 (original, 2015).

Franklin Fraizer. Black Bourgeois: The Book That Brought the Shock of Revelation to Middle-Class Blacks in America. New York: Free Press, 1997 (original 1957).

Lawrence Otis Graham. Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class. New York: Harper, 1999.

Elizabeth Downing Taylor. The Original Black Elite: Daniel Murray and the Story of a Forgotten Era. New York: Harper Collins, 2017.

Karen R. Lacy. Blue Chip Black: Race, Class, and Status in the New Black Middle Class. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

Mary Pattillo. Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril among the Black Middle Class. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013 (original 1999).

Robin D.G. Kelley. Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression, revised edition. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2015 (original 1990).

Robin D.G. Kelley. Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class. New York: The Free Press, 1996.

Cox, Oliver Cromwell. 1948. Caste, class, and race.  New York: Monthly Review Press.



Ida B. Wells-Barnett. On Lynching. Mineola: Dover Publications, 2014 (original 1892).

Equal Justice Initiative. Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror. Montgomery: Equal Justice Initiative, 2015.

Ashraf H.A. Rushdy. American Lynching. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012.


Intersectional Analyses of Reproduction

Dorothy Roberts. Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty. New York: Vintage, 1999 (original 1997).

Khiara Bridges. Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization. Oakland: University of California Press, 2011.

Patricia Hill Collins. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. New York: Routledge, 2005.


The Formation of Black Studies

Martha Biondi. The Black Revolution on Campus. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.

Fabio Rojas. From Black Power to Black Studies: How A Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.


Race and Technology

 Evelynn M. Hammonds. 1997. “New Technologies of Race.” Pp. 107-121 in Jennifer Terry and Melodie Calvert, (eds.), Processed Lives: Gender and Technology in Everyday Life. New York: Routledge.

Anthony Ryan Hatch. “New Technologies of Resistance: Racial Power and Protest in the United States,” Radical History Review 127, pp. 125-132, 2017.

 Ruha Benjamin. 2016. “Informed Refusal: Toward a Justice-Based Bioethics,” Science, Technology, and Human Values, 1-24.