NYRB: Darryl Pinckney presents "Blackballed," with Zack Graham

November 19, 2020, 7:30 PM

Darryl Pinckney joins us to present Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy, in conversation with Zack Graham. This program is part of our ongoing series with NYRB, and will take place on Zoom. Register here:

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An incisive reflection on black electoral politics, disenfranchisement, and the lasting legacy of the civil rights movement--now with a brand-new essay on the Covid-19 pandemic, reparations, and the 2020 George Floyd protests.

Blackballed is Darryl Pinckney's meditation on a century and a half of participation by blacks in US electoral politics. In this combination of memoir, historical narrative, and contemporary political and social analysis, he investigates the struggle for black voting rights from Reconstruction through the civil rights movement to Barack Obama's two presidential campaigns. Drawing on the work of scholars, the memoirs of civil rights workers, and the speeches and writings of black leaders like Martin Luther King and Stokely Carmichael, Andrew Young and John Lewis, Pinckney traces the disagreements among blacks about the best strategies for achieving equality in American society as well as the ways in which they gradually came to create the Democratic voting bloc that contributed to the election of the first black president.

Interspersed through the narrative are Pinckney's own memories of growing up during the civil rights era and the reactions of his parents to the changes taking place in American society. He concludes with an examination of ongoing efforts by Republicans to suppress the black vote, with particular attention to the Supreme Court's recent decision striking down part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Also included here is Pinckney's essay "What Black Means Now," on the history of the black middle class, stereotypes about blacks and crime, and contemporary debates about "post-blackness," as well as a new essay, "Buck Moon in Harlem," which reflects on Juneteenth and the ongoing fight for racial justice, and offers a glimpse of New York City amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the protests following the killing of George Floyd.

Darryl Pinckney, a longtime contributor to The New York Review of Books, is the author of the novels High Cotton and Black Deutschland and several works of nonfiction, most recently the collection Busted in New York and Other Essays. He has collaborated with Robert Wilson on the director's productions of The ForestTime RockerOrlandoThe Old WomanLetter to a ManGarrincha: A Street Opera, and Mary Said What She Said.

Zack Graham’s writing has appeared in Rolling Stone, GQ, The Nation, The Believer, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. He was born in Chicago and lives in New York, where he is at work on a collection of short stories and a novel.