New Book Talks - Lindsey Stewart, The Politics of Black Joy

Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America (CSREA)

CSREA’s New Book Talks highlight new and notable works studying race, ethnicity, and indigeneity from scholars both internal and external to Brown. They facilitate thought-provoking and critical engagement with emerging scholarship.


The next New Book Talk features Lindsey Stewart, author of The Politics of Black Joy. During the antebellum period, slave owners weaponized southern Black joy to argue for enslavement, propagating images of “happy darkies.” In contrast, abolitionists wielded sorrow by emphasizing racial oppression. Both arguments were so effective that a political uneasiness on the subject still lingers. In this text, Stewart wades into these uncomfortable waters by analyzing Zora Neale Hurston’s uses of the concept of Black southern joy, drawing upon Zora Neale Hurston’s essays, Beyoncé’s Lemonade, and figures across several disciplines including Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Toni Morrison, Angela Davis, Saidiya Hartman, Imani Perry, Eddie Glaude, and Audra Simpson.

This event is moderated by Melvin Rogers, Associate Professor of Political Science at Brown.


Lindsey Stewart is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Memphis. Her research focuses on developing black feminist conceptions of political agency, with special attention to the intersection of sexuality, region, religion, and class. Much of her research has done this by philosophically developing the social and political insights that Zora Neale Hurston’s nonfiction corpus presents. Her manuscript, The Politics of Black Joy: Zora Neale Hurston and Neo-Abolitionism, was recently published by Northwestern University Press.

To order a copy of the book, visit the Brown Bookstore.