Vol. 4 No. 1 2020

Zero Hour and the Changing Same: Aesthetic Modernism and Black Nationalist Identity
Author:Lauri Scheyer    Time:2020-07-06    Click:

Abstract: What is the meaning of Zero Hour for African Americans? The Zero Hour of May 8, 1945 was a celebratory moment to mark “the victory of the cause of freedom,” in the immortal words of Winston Churchill. But what could Zero Hour signify for African Americans who continued to encounter racist and discriminatory practices at the end of the war and into the present? The history of African Americans has been characterized by series of “victories for freedom,” “new beginnings,” “forward progress,” and “breaks with the past.” How many other Zero Hours can we identify in the history of Black people in the U.S.? Examining 2020’s moment of pandemic and protests in relation to race and class, I ask what any Zero Hour means for African Americans who have encountered many promising milestones of liberation that fell short of the expected rights and rewards. Using literary examples including Gwendolyn Brooks, Amiri Baraka, Ray Durem, Langston Hughes, Frederick Douglass, and Anne Spencer, I propose that African American history has been marked by a long line of Zero Hours that have indeed achieved progress yet never fully realized the goal of just and fair equality of treatment and opportunity.

Keywords: Freedom, World War II, African Americans, protest, race


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