by Frank B. Wilderson III

Praised as “a trenchant, funny, and unsparing work of memoir and philosophy” (Aaron Robertson, Literary Hub), Frank B. Wilderson’s Afropessimism arrived at a moment when protests against police brutality once again swept the nation. Presenting an argument we can no longer ignore, Wilderson insists that we must view Blackness through the lens of perpetual slavery. Radical in conception, remarkably poignant, and with soaring flights of memoir, Afropessimism reverberates with wisdom and painful clarity in the fractured world we inhabit. “Wilderson’s ambitious book offers its readers two great gifts. First, it strives mightily to make its pessimistic vision plausible…. Second, the book depicts a remarkable life, lived with daring and sincerity.”
—Paul C. Taylor, Washington Post

A seminal work that combines ground-breaking philosophy with searing flights of memoir, Afropessimism presents the tenets of an increasingly influential intellectual movement that theorizes blackness through the lens of perpetual slavery. Rather than interpreting slavery through a Marxist framework of class oppression, Frank B. Wilderson III, demonstrates that the social construct of slavery is hardly a relic of the past but an almost necessary force in our civilization that flourishes today, and that Black struggles cannot be conflated with the experiences of any other oppressed group. In mellifluous prose, he juxtaposes his seemingly idyllic Minneapolis upbringing with the harshness later encountered, whether in Berkeley or Soweto. Afropessimism reverberates with wisdom and painful clarity in the fractured world we inhabit.

Paperback | 368 pages | Liveright | 2021

Frank B. Wilderson III is a Chancellor’s Professor at UC Irvine where he teaches in the African American Studies Department and the Culture & Theory Doctoral Program. During the apartheid era, he spent five and a half years in South Africa where he was one of two Americans to hold elected office in the African National Congress and was a cadre in the underground. His books include Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid, winner of the American Book Award, The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award, and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship; Red, White, & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms; and Afropessimism, which was long-listed for the National Book Award. Wilderson was educated at Dartmouth College (A.B/Government and Philosophy), Columbia University (MFA/Fiction Writing), and UC Berkeley (PhD/Rhetoric and Film Studies).

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