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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 the Programs in Law and Public Affairs, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Jazz Studies. She is the author of 6 books, including Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry, 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 an honor 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, was the 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 was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award in Nonfiction. Her most recent book is: Breathe: A Letter to My Sons (Beacon Press, 2019) which was a finalist for the 2020 Chautauqua Prize and a finalist for the NAACP Image Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. In 2021, Perry was named a Guggenheim Fellow in Intellectual and Cultural History, and in 2020 she was awarded a Pew Fellowship in the Arts for creative writing. As an author of creative nonfiction, she has written for the New York Times, The Atlantic, Harpers, O, Oprah Magazine, New York Magazine, and The Paris Review.

Perry 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 focuses on the history of Black thought, art, and imagination crafted in response to, and resistance against, the social, political and legal realities of domination in the West. 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 contends with 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 age. 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.

Perry’s next book, South to America: A Journey Below the Mason Dixon Line to Understand the Soul of a Nation, will be released in January of 2022.

Imani Perry will be a panelist at our Juneteenth event on June 17 at 7PM. #NBFJuneteenth