“Here ‘Comes the Colored Hour’: Envisioning Counter-Futures and Diasporic Visions
in the Harlem Renaissance Era and Beyond”
CLA 80 | Theme: Afrofuturism and Diasporic Visions
April 1-4, 2020 at the Hilton Memphis in Memphis, TN
Since the term was coined by Mark Dery in his essay, “Black to the Future,” Afrofuturism has held several different meanings in the realms of visual art, music, and creative writing, resulting in a thoughtful discussion about the liberating potential of Black art and its ability to challenge those structures of oppression that have been sources of disenfranchisement for the Black community. As Adriano Elia notes in “The Languages of Afrofuturism,” it “and its political agenda are aimed at an epistemology rewriting the history of the past and imagining a positive future for people of African descent” (p. 84)—what Kodwo Eshun describes, in his article, “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism,” as “counter-futures created in a century hostile to Afro-diasporic projections” (p. 301). Afrofuturism under these definitions is thus aimed at addressing the misrepresentations of Black stories in the past while reclaiming those counter-futures that Black artists and peoples envisioned that were trampled under the feet of cultural oppression.
Operating under this definition of Afrofuturism, the Langston Hughes Society invites papers that explore the counter-futures and diasporic visions imagined by Langston Hughes and his peers of the Harlem Renaissance and beyond. At the same time, we are interested in papers that explore the ways in which Hughes and his contemporaries used their work to confront the historical misrepresentations of African Americans in order to liberate them from cultural oppression. His work, “Cultural Exchange,” is an example. In it, Hughes speaks of “the colored hour” right after southern Blacks “voted all the dixiecrats / Right out of power.” Hughes’ reference to “the colored hour” not only challenges the skewed representation of Black empowerment post-Emancipation that we see in works such as D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation but also highlights the counter-future that he envisions, one in which “Martin Luther King is governor of Georgia” and “colored children have white mammies.”
Interested participants might consider the counter-futures realized or obstructed in literature of the twentieth century and beyond. In Langston Hughes’ Not Without Laughter, for instance, Sandy’s pursuit of an education is a counter-future to a life spent working menial positions—the more restricted life envisioned for Blacks at the time. In Claude McKay’s Amiable with Big Teeth, he envisions the possibility of Black aggregation through development of all-Black organizations as a counter-image to the “crabs in a barrel” description often attributed to the Black community. In Jessie Redmon Fauset’s Comedy: American Style, Teresa envisions her life happily married to the Black man of her dreams until that vision is obstructed by her mother, overcome with intra-racial color prejudice and notions of white supremacy. Papers outside of these topics are certainly welcome.
Please send proposals of no more than five hundred words (for a fifteen to twenty-minute paper) to Dr. Christopher Varlack, President (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr. Richard Hancuff, Secretary (email@example.com) no later than August 23, 2019. Note that in addition to paying the membership and registration fees for CLA, presenters must also be members of the Langston Hughes Society by the time of the conference in order to present.