Hostname: page-component-7dc689bd49-sqk25 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-03-20T11:12:14.341Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Fifty Shades of Blackness: Recovering an Aesthetics of the Afrifuge

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 April 2020


Black lives and histories are to the fore at the moment: from #BlackLivesMatter in the United States to the movement to decolonize syllabi and pedagogy in South African universities. The film Black Panther is watched within a visual and political terrain in which the black body is presented no longer only within histories of previous abjection—slavery and apartheid—but in visions of future reconstitution. This article will put together the changing representation of T’Challa from 1966 to the present in Marvel Comics and the film and argue that blackness has meant different things at different times to the creators as much as within the historical circumstance within which the black superhero has been seen and understood. Central to this has been the dilemma of bringing together the histories of “Africa” and the tenements of the United States—Wakanda and Oakland, California, in the film, and Harlem, New York, in the comic books.

© Cambridge University Press, 2020

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1 Kendrick Lamar, Black Panther, lyrics as

2 The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, Pray for Me, lyrics at

3 Ta-Hehisi Coates, “Conceptualizing the Black Panther,” The Atlantic, December 2, 2015. Accessed August 22, 2019.

4 Ta-Hehisi Coates, “Conceptualizing the Black Panther.”

5 Priest, Christopher, “Marvel Comics, #12, 1999,” in Black Panther: The Complete Collection, vol.1 (Washington, DC Marvel Comics, 2015)Google Scholar, Kindle edition.

6 Jerng, Mark C., Racial Worldmaking: The Power of Popular Fiction (New York: Fordham University Press, 2018), 40CrossRefGoogle Scholar, (Kindle Edition).

7 Jerng, Racial Worldmaking, 44.

8 Jerng, Racial Worldmaking, 170.

9 Nama, Adilifu, Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011), 42Google Scholar.

10 Cleaver, Eldridge, Soul on Ice (London: Jonathan Cape, 1968), 72Google Scholar.

11 Kerouac, Jack, On the Road (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1991), 161–02Google Scholar.

12 McGregor, Don, Black Panther Epic Collection: Panther’s Rage, vol.1 (Washington DC: Marvel Comics, 2016Google Scholar).

13 McGregor, “Issue #52,” Black Panther Epic Collection. July.

14 McGregor, Black Panther Epic Collection: Panther’s Rage.

15 Burroughs, Todd Steven, Marvel’s Black Panther: A Comic Book Biography from Stan Lee to Ta-Nehisi Coates (New York: Diasporic Africa Press, 2018), 184Google Scholar, Kindle edition.

16 McGregor, Black Panther Epic Collection. May 1974.

17 McGregor, Black Panther Epic Collection. July 10, 1974.

18 McGregor, Black Panther Epic Collection. March 14, 1974.

19 Nama, Super Black, 43.

20 McGregor, Black Panther Epic Collection. September 11, 1974.

21 McGregor, Black Panther Epic Collection. November 1974.

22 Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Conceptualizing the Black Panther,” The Atlantic, December 2, 2015. Accessed August 22, 2019.

23 McGregor, Black Panther Epic Collection. May 15, 1974.

24 McGregor, “Sacrifice of Blood,” Black Panther Epic Collection. November 24, 1976.

25 Quoted in Burroughs, Marvel’s Black Panther, 1086.

26 Priest, Black Panther.

27 Priest, “The Client,” Black Panther. November 1, 1998.

28 Priest, “Heart and Soul,” Black Panther. January 3, 1999.

29 Nama, Super Black, 51.

30 Burroughs, Marvel’s Black Panther, 1687.

31 Nama, Super Black, 51.

32 Priest, “Enemy of the State #12,” Black Panther.

33 Reginald Hudlin, “Civil War,” in Black Panther: The Complete Collection, vol. 1 (Washington DC: Marvel Comics, 2019), Kindle edition.

34 Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Conceptualizing the Black Panther.”

35 Coates, Ta-Nehisi, Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, vol. 1, book 2, no. 5 (Washington DC: Marvel Comics, 2016)Google Scholar.

36 Weizman, Eyal, The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Arendt to Gaza (London: Verso, 2012)Google Scholar.

37 Rydell, Robert W., Findling, John E., and Pelle, Kimberley D, Fair America: World’s fairs in the United States (Washington, DC: Smithsonian, 2000Google Scholar).

38 Alpern, Stanley B., Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey (New York; New York University Press, 2011)Google Scholar.

39 Edgar, Robert and Vinson, Robert T., “Zulus Abroad: Cultural Representations and Educational Experiences of Zulus in America,” Journal of Southern African Studies 33.1 (2007)Google Scholar.

40 Rydell, Robert W., All the World’s a Fair: Visions of Empire at American International Expositions, 1876–1916 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984)Google Scholar.

41 Edgar and Vinson, “Zulus Abroad,” 57.

42 Mda, Zakes, The Zulus of New York (Cape Town: Umuzi, 2019), 87Google Scholar.

43 Binyawanga Wainana, 2005. “How to Write about Africa,” Granta, 92. Accessed September 24, 2019.

44 Dery, Mark, “Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel R Delaney, Greg Tate and Tricia Rose,” Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture, ed. Dery, Mark (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994), 180CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

45 Nelson, Alondra, “Introduction: Future Texts,” Social Text 20.2 (2002): 1CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

46 Nelson, “Introduction,” 9.

47 Taiye Selasie, “Bye-Bye Babar,” The Lip, March 3, 2019. Accessed September 24, 2019.

48 Selasie, “Bye-Bye Babar”, 2.

49 Selasie, “Bye-Bye Babar”, 3.

50 Tagore, Rabindranath, “Africa,” in Selected Poems of Rabindranath Tagore, ed. Radice, William (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2005)Google Scholar.

51 Thiong’O, Ngugi wa, Decolonizing the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature (London: Heinemann, 1986)Google Scholar.