A distinctive urban publisher since 1941

Wayne State University Press

0 items
i
Paperback
Published: June 2011
ISBN: 9780814334133
Pages: 224 Size: 6x9
Illustrations: 3
eBOOK
Published: June 2011
ISBN: 9780814336656
Review

A monumental work on urban black masculinity, carefully engaging classic literature such as Richard Wright's Native Son and Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice in dialectic with the phenomenal musical performances of Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., and D'Angelo.

— Kermit E. Campbell

In If We Must Die: From Bigger Thomas to Biggie Smalls, author Aimé J. Ellis argues that throughout slavery, the Jim Crow era, and more recently in the proliferation of the prison industrial complex, the violent threat of death has functioned as a coercive disciplinary practice of social control over black men. In this provocative volume, Ellis delves into a variety of literary and cultural texts to consider unlawful and extralegal violence like lynching, mob violence, and "white riots," in addition to state violence such as state-sanctioned execution, the unregulated use of force by police and prison guards, state neglect or inaction, and denial of human and civil rights.

Focusing primarily on young black men who are depicted or see themselves as "bad niggers," gangbangers, thugs, social outcasts, high school drop-outs, or prison inmates, Ellis looks at the self-affirming embrace of deathly violence and death-defiance-both imagined and lived-in a diverse body of cultural works. From Richard Wright's literary classic Native Son, Eldridge Cleaver's prison memoir Soul on Ice, and Nathan McCall's autobiography Makes Me Wanna Holler to the hip hop music of Eazy-E, Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G., and D'Angelo, Ellis investigates black men's representational identifications with and attachments to death, violence, and death-defiance as a way of coping with and negotiating late-twentieth and early twenty-first century culture.

Distinct from a sociological study of the material conditions that impact urban black life, If We Must Die investigates the many ways that those material conditions and lived experiences profoundly shape black male identity and self-image. African Amerian studies scholars and those interested in race in contemporary American culture will appreciate this thought-provoking volume.

Aimé J. Ellis was an associate professor of English and core faculty in African and African American studies at Michigan State University until his death in 2009, following a yearlong battle with cancer.

One of the 25 overlooked political books of 2011.

– The Huffington Post

If We Must Die is a superbly nuanced exploration into black popular culture's obsession with poor, urban-dwelling black men as simultaneously death-defiant and death-bound. Ellis presents an exciting new take on contemporary literary and mediated treatments of black masculinity and mortality, uncovering representations of agency, spectacle, and subversive opposition to dominant culture.

– Robin R. Means Coleman

If We Must Die offers engaging ideas and issues regarding the interplay among urban black men, racial terror, and the death-oriented standpoints. If We Must Die is a dynamic contribution to the burgeoning field of black gender studies.

– Treva B. Lindsey, The Journal of African American History

If We Must Die offers engaging ideas and issues regarding the interplay among urban black men, racial terror, and death-oriented standpoints. If We Must Die is a dynamic contribution to the burgeoning field of black gender studies.

– Treva B. Lindsey, The Journal of Afriacn American History

A monumental work on urban black masculinity, carefully engaging classic literature such as Richard Wright's Native Son and Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice in dialectic with the phenomenal musical performances of Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., and D'Angelo."

– Kermit E. Campbell, author of Gettin’ Our Groove On (Wayne State University Press, 2005)

  • 2011 Choice Significant University Press Titles for Undergraduates - Selected title