Introduction to the #WakandaSyllabus

greason The following list was compiled by Dr. Walter Greason, who is the author of The American Economy, a collection of documents and essays on the economic history of the United States (Kendall Hunt, 2016). He currently teaches economic history at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ. Dr. Greason is the founder of the International Center of Metropolitan Growth, a firm that publishes economic reports for states, municipalities, non-profit organizations, and small businesses around the world. His most recent book, Suburban Erasure: How the Suburbs Ended the Civil Rights Movement in New Jersey, documents forgotten chapters in the northern Civil Rights Movement, while explaining the failure of racial integration to address economic inequality. In 2011, Dr. Greason won a grant from the Mellon Foundation for his innovative pedagogy, earning him recognition as an International Master Teacher. You can follow him on Twitter @WorldProfessor

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The most recent success in the emerging industry of multi-platform entertainment is “Captain America: Civil War.” The film focused on the painful sacrifices related to friendship and family, but the star character that emerged from the story was T’Challa, the Black Panther, Marvel Entertainment’s first black superhero. He first appears in the print narrative in 1966, the same year that the Black Panther Party began. The two events were unrelated; though Marvel considered changing the character’s name after the activist organization became controversial in the eyes of white Americans. For the first two decades of the fictional Black Panther’s existence, his stories reinforced a peripheral, exotic notion of the African continent with occasional political commentary to condemn Apartheid South Africa or the Ku Klux Klan.

Only after Christopher Priest reinvented the character in 1998 did T’Challa become a central figure in the Marvel Universe. For Priest, the Black Panther was the symbol of political and economic strength among a generation of heroes whose compromised values reflected the confusion of the United States in a world emerging from a Cold War. Later writers like Dwayne McDuffie and Reginald Hudlin built on this foundation, establishing T’Challa as a representative of a transcendent, pan-African nation whose past, present, and future stood untarnished by a thousand years of cultural conflict in the surrounding world. For these writers and the audiences that supported them, T’Challa’s nation – Wakanda – was a black utopia.

They seized the vacuous space provided by the white writers and editors of Marvel comics and imagined a place where black identity and the African diaspora were the pinnacles of human civilization. This project – the re-imagining of space and place in the racial context of Western civilization – has antecedents in the United States that stretch back to the foundations of the republic. Activists like Mary McLeod Bethune, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Lillie Hendry all understood the power to invest a space, a time, and a location with a cultural power that would inspire future generations. Sacrifice marks space, creating place, and changing history. This tradition defines how the fictional Black Panther seized the world’s imagination and invited the world to visit Wakanda in 2018. T’Challa emerged as the fictional representation of those countless dreams denied; the unbroken manhood that Ossie Davis famously invoked after the assassination of Malcolm X. Wakanda symbolized the dreams of black utopias like Ethiopia and South Africa that had grown as the Black Freedom Struggle grew over the twentieth century.

In this moment when superheroes become a way to explore contemporary anxieties about activism and authority, the Black Panther provides an opportunity for global audiences to study the traditions of black nationalism, Pan-Africanism, and the variety of African indigenous cultures. Dr. Walter Greason (Monmouth University) took a few minutes to suggest a collaborative exploration of these influences on Twitter (@worldprofessor). He posted the initial suggestions on Storify under the title “Wakanda Syllabus.” Equally inspired by the history of black creative expression and cultural analysis, Dr. Greason also included many of the most compelling new works on Afrofuturism. Please continue to share your suggestions and resources on social media to engage new communities in discussion about the influences that remove these dreams from the category of black utopias and into the realities of black communities.

ARTS

Jonathan Gayles, White Scripts, Black Supermen

Sun Ra, Springtime in Chicago

Fela Kuti, Zombie

DJ Lynnee Denise

Jeru the Damaja, Can’t Stop the Prophet

The Last Emperor, Secret Wars (part 1)

MF Doom f. Talib Kweli, Old School

Talib Kweli f. Black Thought & Pharoahe Monch, Guerrilla Monsoon Rap

A Brother from Another Planet

Reginald Hudlin career profile

Ron Eglash, African Fractals

Nettrice Gaskins, Maker

FICTION

Sheree Renee Thomas, Dark Matter

Nnedi Okorafor, The Shadow Speaker

Ngugi wa’Thiongo, The River Between

 Nalo Hopkinson, Brown Girl in the Ring

Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart

Christopher Priest, Black Panther

Dwayne McDuffie career profile

Walidah Imarisha, Adrienne Marie Brown, Sheree Renee Thomas, Octavia’s Brood

Daniel Jose Older, Shadowshaper

W.E.B. DuBois, Dark Princess

Richard Wright, Native Son

Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Geoffrey Thorne, Dreamnasium

Octavia Butler, Wildseed

Octavia Butler, Kindred

Tananarive Due, My Soul to Keep

Sebastian Jones & Amandla Stenberg, Niobe

Sofia Samatar, Lisa Bolekaja, et al., Long Hidden

Sofia Samatar, The Winged Histories

Julie Dash & Octavia Butler: A Conversation

Walter D. Greason, Communion

 

NON-FICTION

Maghan Keita, Race and the Writing of History

Mau Mau

Gaspar Yanga

Black Loyalists

Liberia

Sierra Leone

Shaka Zulu

Haiti

Ali Mazrui, The Africans

Winston James, Holding Aloft the Banner of Ethiopia

Robin Kelley, Race Rebels

Robin Kelley, Freedom Dreams

Marcus Garvey

Amy Jacques Garvey

HBO, Tuskegee Airmen

Akinyele Umoja, We Will Shoot Back

Ytasha Womack

Sheena Howard & Ronald Jackson II, eds.,  Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation

Jeffrey A. Brown, Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics, and Their Fans

Janell Hobson, Venus in the Dark

Mel Watkins, On the Real Side

William H. Foster, III, Looking for a Face like Mine

Adilifu Nama, Super Black

The Root, “Afrofuturism”

Julian Chambliss, Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men 

Frances Gateward and John Jennings, The Blacker The Ink

Trevor Getz and Liz Clarke, Abina and the Important Men

The Amazing Adventures of Race in Comics

 

DIGITAL

Hudlin Forum

Museum of Black Superheroes

Brave New Souls

Invisible Universe

Pumzi

The End of Eating Everything

Black Panther: The Animated Series

Black Radical Imagination

But They’re Ours

The Last Angel of History

East Coast Black Age of Comics