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It was in 2002 that Robin D.G. Kelley published Freedom Dreams, a history of renegade intellectuals and artists of the African diaspora throughout the twentieth century. The book presented a premise that the catalyst for political engagement is not oppression or misery, but hope. From Aimé and Suzanne Césaire, to Paul Robeson and Malcolm X, to Jayne Cortez, the book unearthed histories of these and other Black radicals who dared to dream of a brighter future. It tackled topics such as surrealism, Communism, and feminism and was replete with examples on how these and other movements and mindsets intersected with the Black experience. Two decades later, the work remains a staple in the study of the Black radical tradition.
Town Hall welcomes Kelley as he marks the 20th anniversary of Freedom Dreams with a 2022 edition, complete with a foreword by poet and activist Aja Monet, as well as updated reflections. A new introduction highlights Kelley’s expanded worldview and broadened vision of freedom that includes disability justice, abolition, decolonization, and mutual care. Likewise, a new epilogue explores the visionary organizing of those he deems today’s freedom dreamers.
This classic history of the power of the Black radical imagination, its underpinnings and offshoots, remains as fitting for the present as it was at the time of its initial publication.
Robin D. G. Kelley is Distinguished Professor and Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in US History at UCLA. He is author or co-editor of numerous award-winning books, including Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, Yo’ Mama’s Disfunktional! Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America, and Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class, among others.
Presented by Town Hall Seattle.