Legacy Russell’s “Black Meme”

By LARB Radio HourMay 24, 2024

Legacy Russell’s “Black Meme”
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Writer and curator Legacy Russell joins Kate Wolf to discuss her new book, Black Meme, which theorizes the history of viral images of Blackness in America from the dawn of the 20th century to the present. The book argues for the centrality of Black culture in the formation of the digital sphere; it also points to the many ways images of Black people have been exploited, decontextualized, and abused both before and after the internet. Russell draws on a variety of examples, from the open-casket photos of Emmet Till that appeared in Jet Magazine, to the phenomena of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, which helped popularize the VCR, to more recent viral videos of police violence and Black social death. Calling for a reexamination of notions of private and public property, Black Meme urges a reconsideration of what an equitable exchange might look like for Black creators online, as well as engagement on the internet that goes beyond a reshare.

Also, Miranda July, author of All Fours, returns to recommend Small Rain by Garth Greenwell.

LARB Contributor

The LARB Radio Hour is hosted by Eric Newman, Medaya Ocher, and Kate Wolf.


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