A history of Black imagery that rewrites the history of visual culture and technology now
Representations of Blackness have always been integral to our understanding of of the modern world. In Black Meme, Legacy Russell, award-winning author of the groundbreaking Glitch Feminism, explores the construct, culture, and material of the “meme” as mapped to Black visual culture from 1900 to present day. Mining both archival and contemporary media Russell explores the impact of Blackness, Black life, and death on contemporary conceptions of viral culture, borne in the age of the internet.
These meditations include: the circulation of Lynching postcards; Jet Magazine’s publication of a picture of Emmett Till in his open casket; how the televised broadcast of protesters in Selma enters the nation’s living room and changed the debate on civil rights; how a citizen-recorded video of the Rodney King beating at the hands of the LAPD became known as the “first viral video”; what the Anita Hill hearings tell us about the media’s creation of the Black icon; Tamara Lanier’s fight to reclaim the photos of her enslaved ancestors, Renty and Delia, from Harvard’s archive; the Facebook Live recording by Lavish “Diamond” Reynolds of the murder of her partner Philando Castile by the police after being stopped for a broken tail light; and more.
Legacy Russell explores the power of these tokens and argues that without the contributions of Black people, digital culture would not exist in its current form.