Jesmyn Ward's novel Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017) represents one of the numerous literary afterlives of Langston Hughes's debut poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” (1921). If, as Ward's character River states, “there's things that move a man. Like currents of water inside” there are also, things “that run[s] in the blood, like silt in river water.” This article charts the movement of time and space in Sing, Unburied, Sing which, for the African diaspora subject, is something that “runs in the blood” exactly “like currents of water.” And, as much as water and fluidity provide the metaphorical and narrative force of the text, the penal system of Parchman Farm also structures an African diaspora experience of the land where time, nevertheless, fluidly expands. In this way, Sing, Unburied, Sing narrates a twenty-first century African diaspora tale whose existential map is deeply indebted to Langston Hughes's “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” as black lives sing in the present, and look to the past and the future.

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