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Book description

Celebrities live their lives in constant dialogue with stories about them. But when these stories are shaped by durable racist myths, they wield undue power to ruin lives and obliterate communities. Black Legend is the haunting story of an Afro-Argentine, Raúl Grigera ('el negro Raúl'), who in the early 1900s audaciously fashioned himself into an alluring Black icon of Buenos Aires' bohemian nightlife, only to have defamatory storytellers unmake him. In this gripping history, Paulina Alberto exposes the destructive power of racial storytelling and narrates a new history of Black Argentina and Argentine Blackness across two centuries. With the extraordinary Raúl Grigera at its center, Black Legend opens new windows into lived experiences of Blackness in a 'white' nation, and illuminates how Raúl's experience of celebrity was not far removed from more ordinary experiences of racial stories in the flesh.


'This book is a gem. Beautifully written, meticulously researched, it reaches across the borders of our hemisphere to help us think in complex and humane ways about race, the power of storytelling, and nocturnal life in Buenos Aires.'

Jeremy Adelman - Princeton University

'Alberto uses the skills of a sleuth to recover the life of Buenos Aires’s famed 'negro Raúl' and those of a truly gifted historian to help us think not just about Blackness in Argentina but also about the very real power of stories in the lives of individuals, communities, and nations. A fascinating, beautiful work of history.'

Ada Ferrer - New York University

'Black Legend is an extremely innovative book that brings together the best kind of historical work, weaving together life story and national myth with the writing of history itself. Through meticulous research, Paulina Alberto tells the life and afterlives of Black celebrity Raúl Grigera, providing a deep analysis of the long-lasting effects of racial storytelling in Argentina's self-definition as a nation. Offering a counter narrative of Grigera's life, Alberto reminds us that a story well told can play as powerful a role in dismantling racism.'

Keila Grinberg - author of A Black Jurist in a Slave Society

'Poignant and penetrating, Black Legend is a sensitive biography of one complex man and a multilayered history of a community, city, and country all vying to script Blackness in the turbulent twentieth century. A book as much about the power of stories in political culture as the deep and shadowed racial past of Argentina, Black Legend is a stunning achievement.'

Tiya Miles - Harvard University and author of The Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Straits

'More than a traditional biography, Black Legend is an exemplary blueprint on how historical work based on one subject can function simultaneously as a microscope that provides revelatory detail and minutiae, and as a telescope that offers a sweeping look at myriad dynamics within a society.'

Jessica Graham Source: ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America

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