Imani Perry in Conversation with Beverly Guy-Sheftall

Author of South to America

Author Talks

Tuesday, Feb 15 @ 7pm

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An essential, surprising journey through the history, rituals, and landscapes of the American South—and a revelatory argument for why you must understand the South in order to understand America

We all think we know the South. Even those who have never lived there can rattle off a list of signifiers: the Civil War, Gone with the Wind, the Ku Klux Klan, plantations, football, Jim Crow, slavery. But the idiosyncrasies, dispositions, and habits of the region are stranger and more complex than much of the country tends to acknowledge. In South to America, Imani Perry shows that the meaning of American is inextricably linked with the South, and that our understanding of its history and culture is the key to understanding the nation as a whole.

This is the story of a Black woman and native Alabaman returning to the region she has always called home and considering it with fresh eyes. Her journey is full of detours, deep dives, and surprising encounters with places and people. She renders Southerners from all walks of life with sensitivity and honesty, sharing her thoughts about a troubling history and the ritual humiliations and joys that characterize so much of Southern life.

Weaving together stories of immigrant communities, contemporary artists, exploitative opportunists, enslaved peoples, unsung heroes, her own ancestors, and her lived experiences, Imani Perry crafts a tapestry unlike any other. With uncommon insight and breathtaking clarity, South to America offers an assertion that if we want to build a more humane future for the United States, we must center our concern below the Mason-Dixon Line. 

About the Author

Imani Perry is the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University where she also teaches in Gender and Sexuality Studies, Law and Public Affairs and Jazz Studies. She has a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a Ph.D in the history of American civilization from Harvard University. Perry is the author of Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry, winner of the Bograd-Weld Biography Prize of 2019 from the Pen America Foundation. She is also the author of Breathe: A Letter to My Sons, Vexy Thing: On Gender and Liberation, and May We Forever Stand: A History of the Black National Anthem, which was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Nonfiction. Perry, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, who grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Chicago, lives outside of Philadelphia with her two sons.

About the Moderator

Beverly Guy-Sheftall is founding director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center (since 1981) and Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies at Spelman College.  She is also an adjunct professor at Emory University’s Institute for Women’s Studies where she teaches graduate courses in their doctoral program. She is currently President of the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA). Guy-Sheftall has published a number of texts within African American and Women’s Studies which include the first anthology on Black women’s literature. She is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, among them a National Kellogg Fellowship; a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship for dissertations in Women’s Studies; and Spelman’s Presidential Faculty Award for outstanding scholarship. Guy-Sheftall has been involved with the national women’s studies movement since its inception and provided leadership for the establishment of the first women’s studies major at a historically Black college.  Beyond the academy, she has been involved in a number of advocacy organizations which include the National Black Women’s Health Project, the National Council for Research on Women, and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, on whose boards she has served.

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