Readers of the Lost Arkhive

Afrofuturism, Black Speculative Fiction, and Special Collections  
June 15, 2023 - August 31, 2023
| Robert W. Woodruff Library
- Level 10

Today, artists such as Octavia Butler, N.K. Jemison, and Tananarive Due are household names  who are representative of the term Afrofuturism—an aesthetic and philosophy closely aligned  with Black-authored speculative fiction genres (i.e. science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.). But this was not always the case. Just ten years ago, Afrofuturism was not part of the popular zeitgeist. One aspect of the popularization process included the canonization of writers—such as those previously mentioned—who were held up as exemplars of the term. But what of the other contributors to the field?    


The title of this exhibition, “Readers of the Lost Arkhive,” references one of these contributors, Henry Dumas. Dumas’ 1974 short story, “Ark of Bones,” features two young boys as they discover a great Ark in the Mississippi River that houses the souls of every Black person who ever lived. The soul is often described as an immaterial essence of a human being — a spark of energy that enables us to live, imagine, and create. This means that the dreams, imaginations, and the infinite stories of Black people are preserved on Dumas’ Ark. In like manner, this exhibition serves as an Arkhive that houses the spectacular worlds created by Black authors from the 1773-1987. Though not exhaustive, the following selections demonstrate the depth and breadth of Rose Library’s holdings in this area and further adds to the growing discourse on Black speculative world-building. 

Robert W. Woodruff Library
Level 10
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