Unsettled Debts: 1968 and the Problem of Historical Memory| Once Lost, Painfully Present: Maya Angelou’s Blacks, Blues, Black! (1968)

Adrien Sebro



Dr. Maya Angelou’s Blacks, Blues, Black! was a triumph of Civil Rights-era public affairs television, produced and aired amid nationwide uprisings in the immediate wake of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968. Blacks, Blues, Black! promoted Black unity, education, liberation, and culture. However, after it aired, the show’s tapes were lost for decades and only rediscovered by chance in 2009. With its rediscovery, the program reveals similarities between state-sanctioned violence against Black people in 1968 and today while introducing a new generation of viewers to Angelou’s enduring insights and strategic sensibility. This article first sets forth a rewriting of media history about lost archives, Black visibility, creative autonomy, publicly funded media, and popular education television. The article then analyzes specific lessons arising from the educational content of Blacks, Blues, Black!, the African origins of Black cultural forms/practices, and Black unity, and offers strategic insight to combating temporal state violence against Black bodies.



1968, Maya Angelou, Black Diaspora, uprising, Kerner Commission, television, violence, education

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