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Imani Perry

Imani Perry Picture

Imani Perry is the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University and a faculty associate with Gender and Sexuality Studies and Jazz Studies. In the summer of 2023 she will join the faculty at Harvard University as The Carol Pforzheimer Professor at Radcliffe. Perry, a contributing writer for The Atlantic, Perry is the author of 7books, most recently South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation (Ecco Books, 2022), which receive the 2022 National Book Award for Nonfiction and was an instant New York Times bestseller and an Indie bestseller. South to America was named one of President Obama’s favorite books of 2022, as well as numerous best of the year lists. Her book Breathe: A Letter to My Sons (Beacon Press, 2019) was a finalist for the 2020 Chautauqua Prize and a finalist for the NAACP Image Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. She is also the author of Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry (Beacon Press, 2018), which received the Pen Bograd-Weld Award for Biography, The Phi Beta Kappa Christian Gauss Award for outstanding work in literary scholarship, the Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Nonfiction and the Shilts-Grahn Award for nonfiction from the Publishing Triangle. Looking for Lorraine was also named a 2018 notable book by the New York Times, and ahonor book by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. It was a finalist for the African American Intellectual History Society Paul Murray Book Prize. Her book May We Forever Stand: A History of the Black National Anthem (University of North Carolina Press, 2018), winner of the 2019 American Studies Association John Hope Franklin Book Award for the best book in American Studies, the Hurston Wright Award for Nonfiction, and finalist for an NAACP Image Award in Nonfiction. Perry has written for numerous publications including The New York Times Magazine, The Progressive, New York Magazine, Harpers and The Paris Review.

She is a scholar of law, literary and cultural studies, and an author of creative nonfiction. She earned her Ph.D. in American Studies from Harvard University, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, an LLM from Georgetown University Law Center and a BA from Yale College in Literature and American Studies. Her writing and scholarship primarily focus on the history of Black thought, art, and imagination. She seeks to understand the processes of retrenchment after moments of social progress, and how freedom dreams are nevertheless sustained. Her book: Vexy Thing: On Gender and Liberation (Duke University Press, 2018) is a work of critical theory that describes the formation of modern patriarchy at the dawn of capitalism, the transatlantic slave trade, and the age of conquest, and traces it through to the contemporary hypermedia neoliberal era. Her book More Beautiful and More Terrible: The Embrace and Transcendence of Racial Inequality in the United States (NYU Press, 2011) is an examination of contemporary practices of racial inequality that are sustained and extended through a broad matrix of cultural habits despite formal declarations of racial equality. Her first book, Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop (Duke Press, 2004) was one of the earliest scholarly examinations of the music and culture.

Imani Perry was a panelist at our Juneteenth event in 2021.