At the March on Washington in 1963, Josephine Baker was fifty-seven years old, well beyond her most prolific days. But in her speech she was in a mood to consider her life, her legacy, and her departure from the country to which she was now triumphantly returning. “I was a devil in other countries, and I was a little devil in America, too,” she told the crowd. Inspired by these few words, New York Times bestselling poet, essayist, and cultural critic Hanif Abdurraqib has written A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance, a profound and lasting reflection on how Black performance is inextricably woven into the fabric of American culture. Each moment in every performance he examines—whether a schoolyard fistfight, a dance marathon, or the instant in a game of spades right after the cards are dealt—has layers of resonance in Black and white cultures, the politics of American empire, and Mr. Abdurraqib’s own personal history of love, grief, and performance.
Mr. Abdurraqib writes prose brimming with jubilation and pain, infused with the lyricism and rhythm of the musicians he loves. With care and generosity, he explains the poignancy of performances big and small, each one feeling intensely familiar and vital, both timeless and desperately urgent. Filled with sharp insight, humor, and heart, A Little Devil in America exalts the Black performance that unfolds in specific moments in time and space—from midcentury Paris to the moon, and back down again to a cramped living room in Columbus, Ohio.
Mr. Abdurraqib will be in conversation with Nate Marshall, an award-winning writer, rapper, educator, and editor.
This event will be recorded and available later on the FAN website and our YouTube channel.
NOTE: FAN collects registration data to inform event planning.