Bertram D. Ashe


It's time. Clearly, it's time. As I begin this introduction, in the spring of 2006, landmark anniversaries press in on me from every side: 20 years ago, Greg Tate wrote "Cult-Nats Meet Freaky-Deke: the Return of the Black Aesthetic" for the Village Voice in the fall of 1986. And Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It - that totemic post-soul anthem - was released in the summer of 1986, as well. More personally, I first taught Trey Ellis's essay "The New Black Aesthetic" in 1991,15 years ago, and I inaugurated my post-soul aesthetic course in the Spring semester of 1996 - exactly 10 years ago. Over the course of those 20 years, I have obsessively observed this peculiar, post-Civil Rights movement aesthetic: inhaled and analyzed its various manifestos as they appeared in the early years, watched it on screens in darkened movie theaters, listened to it pounding out of my speakers, attended and sponsored its various readings, concerts, lectures, and symposia, gazed on it in galleries and museums and turned its pages from books - all the while debating its very existence with friends, students, and colleagues. Twenty years. And now it's time for African Americanists to weigh in, en masse.

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Copyright © 2007, Johns Hopkins University Press. This article first appeared in African American Review 41:4 (2007), 609-623.

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