Southern California Library

Where Making History Is a Struggle

About this Reader

Upon its release in February 2018 to historic box office success, the film Black Panther was called a cultural phenomenon and a groundbreaking celebration of Black culture.

Given the lasting impact that Black Panther has, and will continue to have, on cultural production and consumption as relates to representations of Black folks and others, we asked some of the scholars most deeply engaged in thinking through such issues to address the contradictions, complexities, and critiques that can so easily get lost in the celebration of a transgressive moment.

We are thankful so many generously responded, and we are privileged to share these pieces with you now. Many similar critiques and analyses have appeared since the film’s opening, and we offer links to some of them on this website, along with other resources to aid in making meaning of it all.

We understand the appeal of Black Panther and are not looking to simply attack the film, but rather increase our understandings of why this film was made now, as well as the political meanings of the narratives it offers—beyond the embodiment of beautiful Blackness. In this spirit, we invite you to explore the articles, with many thanks to the reader’s contributors, listed below.


Mone’ Anderson is an activist and intersectional feminist who enjoys writing, painting and working on dismantling oppressive structures. Erica R. Meiners is a writer, a long distance runner, and the author of For the Children? Protecting Innocence in the Carceral State (2016). Both teach and learn at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago.

Stephanie Batiste is an associate professor in the Black Studies & English departments at UC Santa Barbara and the author of Darkening Mirrors: Imperial Representation in Depression Era African American Performance (2012). She writes, performs in, and, on occasion, directs dramatic works. She studies and creates performance for its embodiments of race, freedom, and the complexities of being and meaning. 

Max Felker-Kantor is an American historian specializing in areas of race, politics, and the carceral state. He is the author of Policing Los Angeles: Race, Resistance, and the Rise of the LAPD (UNC, 2018), and currently teaches American and African American history at Ball State University.

Rachel Herzing is the communications coordinator for RoadMap, a team from across the country dedicated to advancing the power and promise of social justice organizations. She is also a long-time organizer fighting against imprisonment and policing and for self-determination and a co-founder of Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization dedicated to abolishing the prison industrial complex.

Gerald Horne is a historian and author of more than 30 books addressing issues of racism in a variety of relations involving labor, politics, civil rights, international relations and war. He has also written extensively about the film industry. He currently holds the Moores Professorship of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston.

Joy James is F.C. Oakley 3rd C. Professor at Williams College,  teaching in Africana Studies, Gender Studies and political science. The author of Seeking the ‘Beloved Community’ (2013) her edited books on U.S. political imprisonment include: Imprisoned Intellectuals (2003), The New Abolitionists (2005), and Warfare in the American Homeland (2007).

Vijay Prashad is the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and chief editor of LeftWord Books. He is the author of The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (2007) and The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (2013).

Shana Redmond is an interdisciplinary scholar of music, race, and politics at the UCLA  Herb Alpert School of Music. Her focus has been to understand the ways in which music is used as a strategy within the liberation politics and social movements of the African world. She is the author of Anthem: Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora (2014).

Dylan Rodríguez is professor of the Ethnic Studies department at UC Riverside and the author of Forced Passages: Imprisoned Radical Intellectuals and the U.S. Prison Regime (2006) and Suspended Apocalypse: White Supremacy, Genocide, and the Filipino Condition (2009). He is a founding member of Critical Resistance and the Critical Ethnic Studies Association, and has worked in or alongside various social movements and activist collectives.

Damien Sojoyner is an urban anthropologist with a disaporic framework. He is an associate professor & graduate admissions director in the Anthropology department at UC Irvine and the author of First Strike: Educational Enclosures of Black Los Angeles (2016), which delves into the root causes of California’s ever-expansive prison system and disastrous educational policy.

Jackie Wang is a writer who also does music, film, comics, and performance art from a queer, feminist, and POC perspective, and the author of Carceral Capitalism (2018), which includes a critique of liberal anti-racist politics, “Against Innocence,” as well as essays on RoboCop, techno-policing, and the aesthetic problem of making invisible forms of power legible.