In this groundbreaking work, Paul Gilroy proposes that the modern black experience can not be defined solely as African, American, Carribean or British alone, but can only be understand as a Black Atlantic culture that transcends ethnicity or nationality. This culture is thorough modern and, often, overlooked but can deeply enriches our understanding of what it means to be modern.
This condition comes out of historical transoceanic experience, established first with the slave trade but later seen in the development of a transatlantic culture. And Gilroy takes us on a tour of the music that, for centuries, has transmitted racial messages and feeling around the world, from the Jubilee Singers in the nineteenth century to Jimi Hendrix to rap. He also explores this internationalism as it is manifested in black writing from the ‘double consciousness’ of W. E. B. Du Bois to the ‘double vision’ of Richard Wright to the compelling voice of Toni Morrison. As a consequence, Black Atlantic charts the formation of a nationalism, if not a nation, within this shared, disasporic culture.
“He’s the foremost intellectual in the United Kingdom: not an if, not a but, not a maybe.”
“Whilst others scarcely put a toe in the water, in The Black Atlantic Gilroy goes in deep and returns with riches.”
“Paul Gilroy is one the most incisive thinkers of his generation...One can only hope that his voice travels far and wide.”
“In debates in recent years around questions of race, nation and culture, Paul Gilroy has stood out as an independent, unorthodox and (often for that very reason) exciting new voice. With his new book The Black Atlantic this voice continues to provoke and stimulate.”
“At that moment, in US scholarship, the emphasis was still on minimising the role of the Atlantic slave trade and slavery in the making of capitalism. So to have the Black Atlantic argue so powerfully for its constitutive role in the making of modernity was really important.”
“It was in this book that Gilroy laid out his concept of the ‘black Atlantic,’ the idea that black culture is essentially a hybrid, a product of centuries of exchange, slavery and movement across the Atlantic. Exploring everything from the lives and work of African American philosophers such as WEB Du Bois, to black popular music, Gilroy demonstrates that black culture is both ‘local’ and ‘global,’ and cannot be constrained within any single national culture. It flows across the black Atlantic of the book’s title. The influence of Gilroy’s work can be felt not only in modern scholarship but even in the work of the visual artist John Akomfrah.”
“The Black Atlantic, still his most influential work, used the writings of enslaved people and their descendants to demonstrate their centrality to the making of the modern world.”