The writing of this book has had a long generation, and each stage has
been a process that has benefited and been enabled by many thought-
ful intercessors. I owe many thanks to my faculty and staff colleagues
at Duke University in the African and African-American Studies Pro-
gram and in the English Department. I also want to thank a very, very
special group of graduate students, colleagues, and friends who listened
throughout and who cared about this project and about me: Houston A.
Baker Jr., William Darity Jr., Cathy Davidson, Paula Giddings, Kevin
Haynes, Candice Jenkins, Wahneema Lubiano, Erik Ludwig, Debbie
McDowell, Leslie Mitchner, Ifeoma Nwankwo, Jill Petty, Charlotte
Pierce-Baker, Reynolds Price, Nicole Waligora, Ken Wissoker, Wilford
Samuels, and Evie Shockley. Colleagues and auditors from the United
States, Paris, Germany, and England have been audiences at various
points in this process, giving wonderful feedback and encouragement as
this writing went on and on, and invariably sharing their own stories and
memories with me, a gift that never failed to energize.
I owe thanks to Riche Richardson who assisted at the earliest stages
of the book. As I finally moved toward completing this work, I could
not have brought it to conclusion without the incredibly fine and persis-
tent research skills and critical insights of my research assistant Stephane
Robolin, and the organizational magic effected by Allison Puckett. I am
especially appreciative of the skilled insights of Lauren Osborne, who
helped enormously in making this a better book. The thoughtful and
meticulous work of my readers and editors at Duke University Press sig-
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