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Incidences de l'événement

Hélène Le Dantec-Lowry
Claudine Raynaud

I. L'événement et son écriture/writing the Event

Writing the Event, (Re)interpreting the Civil Rights Movement: An Introduction

Hélène Le Dantec-Lowry et Claudine Raynaud

Texte intégral

Fragment de réalité, l’événement est autant fabriquant que fabriqué: c’est un morceau de temps et d’action qui survient et dont l’historien doit rendre compte pour lui faire sens. (Ariette Farge, 2003, 70)

  • 1 For example, an issue of the journal entitled Terrain (Terrain 38, March 2002) addressed the questi (...)

1For the past three decades French social scientists have theorized about the writing of an event in history (e.g. Veyne, 1971; Nora, 1974; Nora 1984; Farge, 1997); they have tried to define what an event is, what creates it, and how it is inscribed in a specific time and context. Several publications have recently appeared, further enriching this debate. The attack on the World Trade Center in New York on September 9, 2001, now remembered as 9/11, has also fuelled new discussions on the definition of a historical event1. It is in this theoretical context that scholars of African American culture decided to analyze the writing of history in general and of African-American history in particular. Examining the civil rights movement—its place in American history, the creative movements it inspired, the concepts it helped (re)define—seemed particularly relevant at a time of renewed interest in the Europe and the United States for that period.

1. The Civil Rights Movement as a Historical Event

  • 2 African American history focuses on the history of the descendants of Africans in the United States (...)

2The civil rights movement may be considered as one of the major “events” of African-American history, and of American history in general, for several reasons.2 It has all the “classical” characteristics of a historical event (Winock, 2002, Cadiou et al., 2005). First, it was remarkable in its intensity, as proven by the various demonstrations, speeches and actions on the part of student and religious organizations, and by the numerous cultural events and publications it generated, then and since. Second, the civil rights movement had great repercussions in the media, in the political arena, and in the creative arts, and, furthermore, politicians as well as social analysts have given it a major place in their analyses. Third, it had important consequences for the African-American community and for the United States as a whole, leading to many transformations: desegregationist laws were passed and affirmative action measures taken; the black middle-class subsequently grew; notions of race and class were also at least partially redefined.

3It would however be erroneous to define a historical event by these characteristics only. An event is not explained only by the context in which it emerged, or through its construction (by the media and in politics, for instance). What seems crucial is that it creates a rupture from the reality before it, a crisis of continuity. A historical event disrupts the usual rhythm of time (Bensa & Fassin, 2002; Sauvagnargues, 1999). It also induces a break in intelligibility. After it takes place, facts, reality, and people cannot be apprehended in the same way. As Bensa and Fassin note: “While we ordinarily live in the system of what goes without saying, the event puts us in the extraordinary system of what cannot any longer explain itself, or at least is not sure about itself” (Bensa & Fassin, 2002, 8). Thus, being black in America had a different significance after the civil rights movement dismantled segregation. This was true for the African-American militants who participated in the numerous marches, demonstrations, boycotts, and sit-ins, but also for the black group as a whole; African Americans saw many within their own community take a stand, demand that their specific problems be recognized and taken care of, and that their culture be fully acknowledged. The civil rights movement completely transformed the way blacks perceived themselves. It also altered profoundly the way they were seen by whites and by the country in its entirety. In many ways, the civil rights movement changed what it meant to be white as well.

4Indeed, following this historical event, what had been considered mostly a southern problem came to be understood in national terms, one that needed to be dealt with. More than that, though, African Americans men and women were finally given a measure of humanity. The stereotype of the dependant Sambo was no longer tenable once Americans saw Black militants and demonstr-ators take their destiny into their own hands (here, the role played by the media, and especially television, cannot be ignored). In that sense, there seems to be a time ‘before’ the movement, and one ‘after’. As Bensa and Fassin wrote further: “The change of rhythm imposed by the event creates a new temporality, which alters the relation to the past and to the future.” The event leads to a new “era”, which demands new meaning(s) in terms of the law, the arts, and politics (Bensa & Fassin, 2002, 11).

  • 3 The names in brackets here and elsewhere in this essay refer to the articles published in this issu (...)

5The civil rights movement induced a real fracture in cultural attitudes, political practices, and in institutional rights. Whereas segregation had previously been mostly accepted, condoned and reinforced, the black struggle precipitated anti-segregationist and antidiscriminatory laws and practices. Our purpose in this volume is not to examine whether these changes were well applied, efficient or even sufficient, but to emphasize how much the fight by blacks to be recognized as equals changed their place and role in American society. Similarly, it can be argued, of course, that there are still many problems involving segregationist residential patterns in the urban and suburban areas of the United States. Yet it cannot be denied that the struggle for black rights resulted in a debate on the composition of the American population that, in some cases, led to the demise of divisions based on racial lines. The civil rights movement also gave birth to a wide array of cultural productions and events. An example analyzed in this volume is that of artistic movements and collectives that were able to emerge thanks to the fight by blacks to be recognized [Finley, Sanconie],3 Until the mi-sixties, it was extremely difficult for blacks to exhibit and to perform their work in institutions that, for the most part, did not make space available to minority artists and that were sometimes openly racist. The civil rights movement led to a reorganization of the artistic and creative world—partially and nonpermanently perhaps in many cases, but this break with past habits cannot be denied.

6With such changes, time itself acquires a new meaning: the actors and witnesses of an historical event are placed in a new temporality, in which life takes on a different dimension. The event necessitates fresh ways of interpreting, analyzing and sorting out reality. The black struggle may be apprehended as one in a series of events throughout history that marked and defined African-American existence (we could cite the Middle Passage, the period of enslavement, the migration out of the South and urbanization, or more specific times such as the Harlem Renaissance or the involvement of black soldiers in the First and Second World Wars). What makes the civil rights movement a notable event is also that it exaggerated or emphasized what was already there. For example, black American history is fraught with varied rumors about white conspiracies to eliminate African Americans or to hamper their autonomy and power; the civil rights movement enhanced or transformed previous rumors, and created new ones. There was a novel revolutionary narrative in which black activist writers used new imagination, as well as original vocabulary and references to denounce white supremacy [Van Deburg], The individual initiators, the creators of those new rumors were part of a larger tradition of denouncing plots by whites aimed at destroying the lives or the environment of African-Americans. At the same time, these rumors cannot be perceived without taking into account the collective momentum and forces that shaped the civil rights movement. Again, what counts in the analysis of an event is not so much how reality was paused and cut out, but how it created new perceptions, a different intelligibility (Bensa & Fassin, 2002, 14).

2. Making Sense of the Civil Rights Movement

7Defining an event excludes neutrality; for it is constructed socially by politicians, by the media, by the actors who play an active role in it. Furthermore, the various strata of society appropriate an event differently, confirming that an event involves the “joining of alterities” (Farge, 2002, 78). Because it is constructed, its boundaries vary. A specific moment in time has often been designated as the ‘beginning’ of the civil rights movement. The bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955—the month-long boycott itself or sometimes, more specifically, the arrest of Rosa Parks is commonly seen as the starting point of the black struggle. But the choice of a defining moment is far from neutral. Indeed, the Montgomery bus boycott is representative of the non-violent struggle that was led by such iconic figures as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, who both fought for the integration of African Americans into the American society as equals, a society they hoped to reform but did not wholly question. The importance of the bus boycott in Montgomery cannot be denied, for it encouraged many blacks to join the fight, and the successful outcome of the struggle (the desegregation of the transportation system in that southern city) was a paving stone for further victories. In some way, the boycott represents a consensual landmark, one that is often perceived as more “acceptable” than the demands and actions of nationalists or black power activists, for instance. Focusing on 1955, however, has led to erasing or downplaying a black fight that had started much earlier.

8In her study of the African-American struggle in New York City, Martha Biondi convincingly shows how the actions, tactics and strategies of civil-rights workers in the South owed much to the activism and victories of the previous decades. There is no doubt that the fight of black workers and of southern migrants (and of Caribbean immigrants in the case of New York City) in northern cities throughout the 1930s and 1940s greatly influenced the struggle of the fifties and sixties. The periodization of the black movement is thus a crucial step for the historian in understanding not only what happened in urban centers of the north and west, but also in the South, as well as in explaining the evolution of the black struggle after the mid-sixties [Biondi] (Biondi, 2003).

9Similarly, there is disagreement about when the civil rights movement ended: some claim it was over with the assassination of King in 1968; others see it as continuing to the mid-seventies, with its emphasis on black nationalism and Pan-Africanism (Cashman, 1991; Carson, 1991). In any case, deciding what time frame defines the civil rights movement leads to different interpretations. Ignoring the fighting spirit of many blacks before the mid-fifties would be equivalent to erasing from reality and memory the early involvement and various successes that in part resulted in the positive outcome of the sixties movement. Historians must redefine this era, and to do so, their work requires some amount of deconstruction of the official or mainstream discourse.

10This last point raises another question about the writing of an event. An event often allows new voices to be heard as does the analysis of that event [Farge] (Farge, 2003). The civil rights movement is no exception. In large part, the voices of African Americans were ignored and silenced throughout much of American history, voices long considered as those of second-class citizens incapable of contributing to the formation and evolution of the nation. In the fifties, the context of the Cold War also led to the marginalization of their words and aspirations: the United States wished to show a united front and to demonstrate the superiority of its system and institutions over those of the Soviet Union. Divisions by race, ethnicity and class had to be negated or muted. Historical work produced during that period often resorted to this logic, with the result that what was put forward in analysis was mostly the exceptionalism of the American nation (Appleby, 1994; Ross, 1995). The black movement overturned this logic. African-American voices were no longer silent. Blacks shouted slogans, sang and chanted in nonviolent demonstrations; they voiced their claims and their anger or frustration during the urban riots of the sixties, subsequently publishing political manifestos and biographies or memoirs that testify to their political engagement and to their position as direct witnesses [Christol, Bantman-Masum].

11Black voices were also heard in an unprecedented flourish of creativity as black writers and artists (painters, musicians, singers) became directly involved in the movement and redefined the position of their commitment [Julien, Clary, Mills, Bantman-Masun, Finley, Sanconie]. The response to the Civil Rigts Movement took the shape of the Black Arts Movement and to such vibrant proclamations of a link between the arts and politics as the Black aesthetics. Only the 1920s Harlem Renaissance has given rise to such a combination of powerful political statement and intense creative energy by the African American community, although this was on a decidedly smaller temporal and geographical scale. Those were times when Black artists were activists. Poets and novelists responded to these troubled times by incorporating current events into fiction and poetry (cf. Gwendolyn Brooks, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, among others), by becoming spokespersons for the rebellion (cf. Gayle, Neale, Baraka, Baldwin). A case in point is the Birmingham bombing and the murder of Emmett Till [Julien]. To this day, literary (re)inscriptions of that tragedy continue to emerge, such as Toni Morrison’s play Dreaming Emmett (1986) to make it a site of memory for the nation as a whole. Black poetry and drama, as well as live performances, became the natural conduit for new claims, provocative stances, supported by the concurrent and at times contradictory impulses of feminism and the antiwar protests. The visual arts thrived in a display of groundbreaking ventures.

12Not only does an event create time, interactions, approval or rejection, but it also produces a language that can lead to new forms of creation and new meanings (Farge, 2002, 70). The new language offered by black militants, writers, and artists provided not only political commentary and creative performance, but also allowed the general public to understand the specific characteristics, aspirations, and desires of the African-American community even in its divisions and tensions. Examining particular events as they occurred (demonstration, riots, speeches, the enactment of laws, etc.) certainly helps understand what the civil rights movement was about. At the same time, the cultural and artistic production of the actors involved in the black struggle brings out the context and provides commentary on what took place. It reverberates it, supports it, and may be part and parcel of it. The Black Arts Movement claimed that its action was political and that aesthetics and politics went together. Art and the struggle were one. As Arlette Farge explains, a major event is made up of minor events—she refers to them as ‘low-intensity events’ (Farge, 2002, 71)—that facilitate the comprehension of the whole. Indeed, they add to one another, and are written on top of each other like a palimpsest, each new one adding significance to the previous one. The event can thus be understood as a cross between historical status and literature, philosophy and the arts (Laflamme, 2006). From that perspective, the artistic creation of the period as exemplified by fiction, drama and the visual arts [Clary, Finley, Sanconie] established a link between the past and the present of African American history in a revision of the devastating heritage of slavery. Healing meant confronting sorrow and losses to move forward with strength and determination.

3. Black Times: (Re)Writing the Civil Rights Movement

13As minor events are taking place, they offer a fresh vision of the major event that produces them. Their creators also select in the major event what interests them; they reinterpret it to give meaning to their own logic. This process leads to new writings and to rewritings. Biographies and essays are a good illustration of this phenomenon. Their authors are actors and witnesses of the event but they also re-create and reconstruct it. They choose what to mention, and what to keep silent. [Bantman-Masum, Christol], In Seize the Time, Bobby Seale can be said to reinvent what defines an event, with his focus on immediacy and performance, on “life as lived in the present”. He did not want merely to relate facts—among them the creation and actions of the Black Panther Party—he also wanted to tell his version of something that had been obliterated or distorted in the dominant discourse [Christol]. His account also departs from the classical definition of autobiography with its focus on the subject, as there are comparatively few factual references to his personal life. Yet, in that way, it remains in keeping with the tradition of black self-writing that documents the political commitment of its author, its subordination of self to others, and ‘fills in the blanks’ of official historiography.

14The civil rights movement could thus be said to have created “black times,” and promoted a different notion of what time is—a time which is not necessarily linear and irreversible. Specific iconic moments could be chosen that were no longer imposed by whites in a rewriting of history and of the present. When Miriam Makeba wrote her autobiography, she clearly defined herself as a witness who came from outside of the United States (she originated from South Africa); yet, she was also a “participant observer” married to Stokely Carmichael, one of the leaders of the Black Power movement, a position which made her somewhat of an “insider” [Bantman-Masum]. These lives of the civil rights struggle and of its more radical branch come to comment on the events themselves; they bring to historical narration the irregularity, the heterogeneity that Farge wants to rescue in the writing of History. Makeba’s is an intervention that must be replaced within a diasporic Pan-Africanist context that offers a different angle on American domestic issues.

15The civil rights struggle is far from being a unified movement; it led to myriad stands, approaches, and interpretations that were approved or refuted in a great number of heated debates among the Black intellectual community, or among the smaller organizations or intellectual and political circles, the official parties and the Black churches. They spanned the spectrum from the integrationists to the most radical and revolutionary, those ready to take arms against the (white) Man. In this context of the urgency of political action, Black revolutionary theater written and performed during the sixties adopted a male-centered approach, soon challenged by the women in the movement. The sexual rhetoric over “passing” and miscegenation during the Harlem Renaissance was indeed a thing of the past. Black male playwrights rejected the dominant discourse on African Americans, and on their political action, a discourse that was still mostly negative and often demeaning by promoting Black masculinity. Black women reacted to these plays by distancing themselves from them. Some female playwrights (Sanchez, Childress) refuted the persisting stereotypes about black women portrayed as castrating mothers or Jezabels who ruined the black man’s ego [Mills]. LeRoi Jones/Imamu Baraka and Ed Bullins were influenced by the Black Power rhetoric that needed to oppose a strong black man to the image of a dehumanized Sambo or an Uncle Tom who could not think for himself. They neglected to see that the counterpart of that stereotypical black man was a stereotyped black woman and they thus internalized the dominant image of the black woman as domineering mother or temptress.

16The black civil rights movement and Black Power are run through with violence over the issue of sexual difference that harbors the emergence of the women writers of the 80s (In 1970, Walker published The Third Life of Grange Copeland and Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye). Both fiction writers and dramatists confront the conflation of a hyperactive animal-like sexuality and black identity [Clary; Mills]. While black artists probed dominant masculine stereotypes of black manhood and attempted to offer a new vision of the black man, black women reminded them that they should not project this new image at their expense. A reflection on the centrality of sexuality to interracial conflicts, Calvin Hernton’s Sex and Racism in America, published in 1965, argues that all race relations tend ultimately to be sexual relations. He was later to qualify this obstacle facing black writers as “the sexual mountain” after Hughes’s trope of the “racial mountain” (Hernton, 1987). In their opposition to their male counterparts, these women playwrights were influenced by the rise of feminist rhetoric and they participated in its growth, while voicing their own difference from white women.

17Writing at the time of the civil rights movement, and especially when “Black Power” became a rallying motto, meant defining what it meant to be black. Self-determination was also present in fictional writing by Blacks—at the intersection of fiction and reality, myth and facts [Clary]—and in the visual arts, where artistic creation and performance were also political statements of power and blackness [Finley, Sanconie], In fiction as well as in the visual arts, the devices used were part of the ideological stand: irony and satire, informal grammatical and spelling rules, innovative stylistic form in fiction. They chose new materials, and resorted to installations, mural painting, collective and cooperative alternatives in art. Similar themes were sometimes used by both fiction writers and visual artists: African references, historical reminiscences of the slave past, of the South, and black folklore, became natural fodder for their creativity.

18In her 1960 collection, The Bean Eaters, Gwendolyn Brooks wrote two poems on Emmett Till’s lynching, "A Bronzeville Mother Loiters in Mississippi. Meanwhile, a Mississippi Mother Burns Bacon" and "The Last Quatrain of the Ballad of Emmett Till. " Yet rewriting can also occur over time, and there have been various re-readings of specific events of the civil rights movement in literature, cinema, the arts, and in history. Three novels, written in 1992, 1993 and 2002, put in perspective the fictional representations of the 1955 murder of Emmet Till in Mississippi and the ensuing trial [Julien]. They all contribute to going back over the actual horror of Southern lynching while exploring in a variety of ways the individual psyche. If words are events, Till’s “Bye, Baby” resounds with the violence of a cataclysm: there is a before and an after these words that are still retained in America’s collective memory.

19In historiography, the black rights struggle has clearly transformed the writing of history. The demands of militants that the specific culture and history of the African-American community finally be acknowledged and formalized, the sympathy of some white historians for the black cause, as well as the increase in the number of African-American students in universities after the passage of Affirmative Action measures in the mid-sixties, and the creation of Black Studies departments—all these have profoundly altered the writing of American history. Many black analysts felt that little had been told about the exploitation of Blacks or about their contributions to the building of the nation. Now that they were able to participate in the writing of history using their own codes and agenda, their first priority was to reintroduce African Americans into the historical narrative of the nation and to rectify outright lies, misrepresentations and half-truths. As Nell Irvin Painter noted about that period: “Using sources that mainstream scholars had overlooked or distorted, we would reveal the truth about our people” (Painter, 1997, x). Black history writing was revisionist at first. This revisionist stand was for example present in the wake of the Moynihan Report of 1965. Commissioned by the Johnson administration, it was received increasingly with criticism and rebuttal by social analysts for offering a distorted vision of the black family as essentially pathological and destructive. This has led to an intense historiographical debate that still persists today [Le Dantec-Lowry].

20Specific sites that are relevant to an event take shape and stand out. This is certainly true with regard to the civil rights struggle. In historical analysis, the university is such a site, but there are others such as art galleries. Museums were not always open to black artists, so they created their own spaces: galleries, artist communities and groupings, as well as the streets of American cities [Finley, Sanconie]. Likewise, playwrights and actors created their own theater companies. Black writers chose to be published by Black presses. African Americans invested spaces that had previously been closed to them or they simply built their own. These were sites of creation, and they became “milieus of memory” (Nora, 1984) that perpetuated black culture and ideology and served as places of remembrance. Although these sites have not all survived, they nonetheless altered the perception of what it was to be black in America and gave visibility to an oppressed minority. Concurrently, similar sites were created by other ethnic groups at the time, such as the Hispanics or the Native Americans, who were also countering the monolithic, restrictive and repressed vision of their own communities. Specific memories were selected and retained, while others were rejected or forgotten. Memory, history and identity-making were intertwined in a process that led to a redefinition of the nation’s make-up [Finley].


21Examining an event implies paying attention to the breach created between the past and the future, elaborating new meanings and a different significance. The sources that need to be tapped extend well beyond hard facts. Representations in fiction and in the arts, spaces and sites (these can be imaginary), emotions and feelings (Ricoeur, 2006; Farge, 2003) should all be taken into account.

22The present discussion about the civil rights movement, as depicted in the following essays, is far from exhaustive. Poetry, music, photography and films should also be studied, as should television, advertisements and cartoons. The civil rights movement deserves its place in the history of the United States, as an event, because it created rupture and new meanings, and in analysis, because of its major role in in the writing of American history. It is also part and parcel of the black imaginary, and of the American psyche.


Works Cited

Appleby, Joyce et al. 1994. Telling the Truth About History. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

Bensa, Alban & Eric Fassin. 2002. « Les sciences sociales face à l’événement». Terrain 38, mars 2002, 6-20.

Biondi, Martha. 2003. To Stand and to Fight. The Struggle for Civil Rights in Postwar New York City. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Cadiou François et al. 2005. Comment se fait l’histoire. Pratiques et enjeux. Paris: La Découverte. Collection Repères.

Cashman, Sean Dennis. 1991. African Americans and the Quest for Civil Rights, 1900-1990. New York: New York University Press.

Carson, Clayborne et al. Ed. 1991. The Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader. Documents, Speeches and Firsthand Accounts From the Black Freedom Struggle, 1954-1990. New York: Penguin.

Farge, Arlette. 1997. Des Lieux pour l’histoire. Paris: Éditions du Seuil.

——— 2002. «Penser et définir l’événement en histoire. Approche des situations et des acteurs sociaux.» Terrain 38, mars 2002, 69-78.

——— 2003. «Histoire, événement, parole.» Socio-Anthropologie 2, Communauté et/ou Ensemble populationnel, mis en ligne le 15 janvier 2003, URL:
[accessed 01/19/2007].

Hernton, Calvin. [1965] Sex and Racism in America. Grove/Atlantic, 1966.

——— [1987] The Black Woman Writer and the Sexual Mountain New York: Anchor, 1990.

Higginbotham, Evelyn Brooks Ed. 2001. The Harvard Guide to African American History. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Laflamme, Elsa. 2006. « Lire et penser l’événement ». Acta Fabula, Vol. 7, No. 3, juin-juillet. URL:
[accessed 01/19/2007].

Nora, Pierre. 1974. « Le retour de l’événement. » In Faire de l’histoire. Nouveaux problèmes. Vol. 1. Eds. Jacques Le Goff & Pierre Nora. Paris: Gallimard.

——— 1984. Lieux de mémoire. Paris: Gallimard.

Painter, Nell Irvin. 1997. “Foreword: African-American Studies Enters the New Century.” In Race Consciousness. African-American Studies for the New Century. Eds. Judith Jackson Fossett & Jeffrey A. Tucker. New York: New York University Press.

Ricoeur, Paul. 2006. « Mémoire, histoire, oubli. » Esprit, mars-avril, 20-29.

Ross, Dorothy. 1995. “Grand Narrative in American Historical Writing: From Romance to Uncertainty.” American Historical Review, No. 100, Vol. 3, June, 651-677.

Sauvagnargues, Anne. 1999. Centre d’Études en Rhétorique, Philosophie et Histoire des Idées (CERPHI) « Agrégation: leçons de philosophie. Qu’appelle-t-on un événement ? »
[accessed on 01/19/07],

Veyne, Paul. 1978 [1971]. Comment on écrit l’histoire. Paris: Éditions du Seuil.

Winock, Michel. 2002. « Qu’est-ce qu’un événement ? ». L’Histoire 268, Septembre, 32-37.


1 For example, an issue of the journal entitled Terrain (Terrain 38, March 2002) addressed the question: “What is an Event?” (“Qu’est-ce qu’un événement ?”). It included articles by historians, sociologists, political scientists and other various specialists. Its cover depicted a child’s drawing representing the World Trade Center after it was hit by two planes on 9/11.

2 African American history focuses on the history of the descendants of Africans in the United States and more generally on “black experience” as an ethnic group and as Americans. Its consolidation as a field took place in the 60s (Hine, 1986; Higginbotham, 2001).

3 The names in brackets here and elsewhere in this essay refer to the articles published in this issue.


Maître de conférences à l'université Paris III - Sorbonne Nouvelle, elle enseigne la civilisation américaine. Elle a co-dirigé Formes et Ecritures du départ : Incursions dans les Amériques noires avec Andrée-Anne Kekeh-Dika (Paris : L'Harmattan, 2000) et Ecritures de l'histoire africaine-américaine / The Writing(s) of African-American History avec Arlette Frund (Paris : Annales du Monde Anglophone 18, 2003). Elle prépare un livre sur Le Discours sur la famille noire aux Etats-Unis à paraître en 2008.
An Associate Professor at the University of Paris III - Sorbonne Nouvelle, she teaches American history. She co-directed Incursions dans les Amériques noires with Andrée-Anne Kekeh-Dika (Paris: L'Harmattan, 2000) and Ecritures de l'histoire africaine-américaine / The Writing(s) of African-American History with Ariette Frund (Paris: Annales du Monde Anglophone 18, 2003). She is currently writing a book about the discourse on the black family in the United States.

Université de Paris III et Université de Tours
Professeur de littérature anglaise et américaine à l’Université François-Rabelais de Tours, elle a enseigné en Angleterre et aux Etats-Unis (Michigan, Northwestern et Oberlin). Chercheur au DuBois Institute (automne 2005), elle dirige la Jeune Equipe « Etudes Afro-américaines » créée en 2004 et travaille au CNRS. Elle est l’auteur de Toni Morrison : L’Esthétique de la survie (1995) ainsi que de nombreux articles sur l’autobiographie noire. Ses publications les plus récentes sont : «Coming of Age in the African American Novel », The Cambridge Companion to the African American Novel (2004), un recueil d’articles sur The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman de Gaines (CRAFT, 2005) et «Beloved or the Shifting Shapes of Memory», The Cambridge Companion to Toni Morrison (2007).
Professor of English and American Literature at the University François-Rabelais, Tours, France, she has taught in England and the United States (Michigan, Northwestern and Oberlin). A Fellow at the DuBois Institute (Fall 2005), she now heads the nationwide African American Studies Research Group created in 2004 and works at the CNRS. She is the author of Toni Morrison: L’Esthétique de la survie (1995) and numerous articles on black autobiography. Her most current publications are “Coming of Age in the African American Novel,” The Cambridge Companion to the African American Novel (2004), an anthology of articles on Gaines’s The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman (CRAFT, 2005) and “Beloved or the Shifting Shapes of Memory,” The Cambridge Companion to Toni Morrison (2007).

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