Past Talks & More | Film/Video

Hanif Abdurraqib

On A Little  Devil  in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance

in conversation with Dr. Terri Francis


Columbus author Hanif Abdurraqib talks about his new book, A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance, in this live online conversation with Dr. Terri Francis, director of the Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University.

Following such acclaimed works as They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us and Go Ahead in the Rain, poet, critic, and author Hanif Abdurraqib’s A Little Devil in America (Penguin Random House) delivers an exciting mix of personal storytelling and cultural analysis that examines Black performance in the United States across film, television, music, and more.

With a title inspired by a defiant 1963 speech by Josephine Baker—who in reflecting on her legacy said, “I was a devil in other countries, and I was a little devil in America, too”—Abdurraquib spotlights such artists as Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and Dave Chappelle, chronicling how Black performers have shaped our culture in the last century. A live Q&A follows the conversation starting at 7 PM EST on April 7; please RSVP to participate through Zoom. The talk will remain on this page afterward for you to enjoy.

You can preorder a personalized copy of Abdurraqib’s book on the Wexner Center Store's website.

Francis’s new book, Josephine Baker’s Cinematic Prism, which examines how Baker shaped her cultural image through her appearances in film, will be the focus of a future conversation with the Wex. Watch this site for details!

More on A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance

“I wanted to pick varied clips from Soul Train Lines that showed off the varied nature of Black exuberance and innovation, and also that showed the playful nature of the line, throughout eras. I also wanted to share the moment where Don Cornelius takes to the line himself, as a moment that shows him in service of his guests, always. I wanted to share Josephine Baker, late in her life and career, but still stunning. And the Wu-Tang Clan video that changed my adolescence.”—Hanif Abdurraqib

Black and white image of Terri Francis

Dr. Terri Francis | Image courtesy of Dr. Terri Francis

Photo of Hanif Abdurraqib in cap and colorful shirt, his hand is touching his chin

Hanif Abdurraqib | Photo: Marcus Jackson

Cover of the book A Little Devil in America

A Little Devil in America

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More about the speakers

Hanif Abdurraqib chevron-down chevron-up

A poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio, Hanif Abdurraqib has been published in the New York Times, New Yorker, FADER, and Pitchfork. His first full-length poetry collection, The Crown Ain't Worth Much (Button Poetry, 2016) was named a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award and nominated for a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and his second collection, A Fortune for Your Disaster (Tin House, 2019), won the 2020 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. His first collection of essays, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us (Two Dollar Radio, 2017), was named a book of the year by NPR, Oprah Magazine, Los Angeles Review, and the Chicago Tribune, among others. His critically acclaimed Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest (University of Texas, 2019) quickly became a New York Times Bestseller and was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize. Read more.

Terri Francis chevron-down chevron-up

Dr. Terri Francis is the director of the Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University in Bloomington and associate professor at the university’s The Media School. Established in 1981, the Black Film Center/Archive is the first archival repository dedicated to collecting, preserving, and making available historically and culturally significant films by and about Black people. Francis was recently a guest speaker at our all-virtual edition of Cinema Revival. Read more.

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Hanif Abdurraqib