reparation for this book began while I was on my junior
year abroad at the University of Sheffield. I was passionately
awakened when the young lecturer Tim Armstrong intro-
duced me to Marxist and feminist theory. That was part of my
development; the other source of my inspiration came at night,
boogying in the dance clubs of Sheffield, the private dj parties
held in the basement of the housing estates, and the Hacienda
in Manchester. The worlds I lived in didn’t mingle, but my work
comes out of where they met. Returning to California the next
year, I took courses with Angela Davis in the women’s studies de-
partment at San Francisco State University. Davis was beginning
to write about blues women, and in a class called “Wild Women
in the Whirlwind” she introduced me to the work of Hazel Carby.
That was it. I knew I had found my way. One of the most impor-
tant moments of my life was a few years later: when working with
Hazel Carby as a graduate student at Yale University, I had the
honor of introducing Professors Davis and Carby at the Women
Defending Our Name conference in 1993. I thank them both for
demonstrating to me what an active intellectual commitment to
social change can look like.
I have many people to thank for helping me to make this book
happen. I am grateful to Paul Gilroy for his intellectual breadth
and generosity, his creativity, and his bibliographic knowledge.
As my principal advisors at Yale, Professors Carby and Gilroy
gave me continued guidance and friendship. Joseph Roach and
Michael Denning read this work in dissertation form and gave
me excellent criticism. Candace Allen, St. Clair Bourne, David
Krasner, and Michelle Wallace kindly shared the results of their
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