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Black in the Middle

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Edited by Terrion L. Williamson

An ambitious, honest portrait of the Black experience in flyover country. One of The St. Louis Post Dispatch’s Best Books of 2020.

Black Americans have been among the hardest hit by the rapid deindustrialization and accompanying economic decline that have become so synonymous with the Midwest. After the 2016 election, many traditional media outlets renewed their attention on the conditions of “Middle America,” but they often marginalized or completely overlooked the experience of the Black people who live there. 

Edited by Terrion Williamson, the director of the Black Midwest Initiative, Black in the Middle places the voices of Black midwesterners front and center. Filled with compelling personal narratives, thought-provoking art, and searing commentaries, this anthology explores the various meanings and experiences of blackness throughout the Rust Belt, the Midwest, and the Great Plains. It brings together people from major metropolitan centers like Detroit and Chicago as well as smaller cities and rural areas where the lives of Black residents have too often gone unacknowledged to create "a timely, compelling collection that allows predominantly Black Midwesterners to reclaim their home, histories, and future.”

A much-needed corrective to common narratives about the Midwest. 

Terrion L. Williamson is an associate professor of African American & African Studies at the University of Minnesota and the director of the Black Midwest Initiative. A native of Peoria, she is author of Scandalize My Name: Black Feminist Practice and the Making of Black Social Life. She lives in Minneapolis.

More praise for Black in the Middle:

"Timely and evocative.... By calling forth the full range of the Black Midwestern experience, this bracing anthology offers crucial insights into why the region is the epicenter of current protests against police brutality and racial injustice."Publishers Weekly

"Williamson’s affectionate tour of Flyover Country is ambitious and eclectic, with African American humanity on display....Though esoteric, Black in the Middle has a consistent through-line: Where there are African Americans, there is creativity, joy, sorrow and a sense of place; nowhere becomes somewhere. There are Black roots in the Midwest, sometimes hard to see, watered with blood, sweat and bitter tears."Joseph P. Williams, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"The honesty in the essays, the emergency in the poetry, and the intensity of the photographs and paintings help to sharpen the edge of what it means to be Black in the middle of anything, which is the sum of our fears and the hope that manifests itself in our dreams. Black in the Middle reminded me of a home imagined and of a home realized as someone who grew up in the Midwest."Jason Vasser-Elong, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"A rare anthology in that its subject is Black and lives in the Midwest. Through well-crafted essays, poems, photography and other musings on everyday life, the collection shares the inner workings of some families who make due with what little they are given or who build a future on their own terms."Jane Henderson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch


See also: 

The Midwest Anthologies Bundle

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