The Risky Business of Branding Black Pain

“It is both humiliating and humbling to discover that a single generation after the events that constructed me as a public personality, I am remembered as a hairdo.”

These are words from the Black Power icon and lifelong activist Angela Davis’s 1994 essay, “Afro Images: Politics, Fashion, and Nostalgia.” In the years following her emergence as a communist, a revolutionary for black freedom, an enemy of the state, and an enduring voice of prison abolition, Davis’s image—one...

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