ABSTRACT

African American history and the history of antiblack violence in this country have been plagued with different modes of forgetting and outright neglect. As a result, absence, silence, and breakages mark a particular layer and structure of memory that contextualizes this form of neglect. In this article, I use the work of Billie Holiday, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Walter Benjamin to argue that the more we have objects of memory of the African American past, the more antipathy toward present antiblack violence grows. I show that African American memory of antiblack violence has been marked by an aesthetic of sorrow just as much as it has been an intrusion into the public space. I further argue that it is important to critique the function of neglect and to reenvision the political power of allegorical modes of memory not only to provide a context for what is neglected but to emphasize that this neglect is a symptom of a newly unfolding crisis.

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