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I Just Keep Talking: A Life in Essays

Nell Irvin Painter, History, Emerita; Ruha Benjamin, African American Studies

Wed, 4/24 · 6:00 pm7:30 pm · Labyrinth Books

Labyrinth Books; Humanities Council; Department of African American Studies; Center for Collaborative History

New York Times bestselling author of The History of White People and Old in Art School, presents a comprehensive new collection of essays spanning art, politics, and the legacy of racism that shapes American history as we know it. We will also be celebrating the re-issue of Painter’s acclaimed previous books, Standing at Armageddon: A Grassroots History of the Progressive Era and Sojourner Truth: A Life, a Symbol.

Throughout her prolific writing career, Nell Painter has pushed the boundaries of personal narrative and academic authorship. Led by an unbridled curiosity for her subjects, Painter asks readers to reconsider ideas of race, politics, and identity. I Just Keep Talking assembles her writing for the first time into a single volume, displaying the breadth and depth of Painter’s decades-long historical inquiry and the evolution of Black political thought. The book includes a dazzling introduction and coda being published for the first time in this collection. From her mining of figures like Carrie Buck and Martin Delaney for their resonance today, to a deep dive into the history of exclusion through the work of Toni Morrison, to a discussion of the American political landscape after the 2016 election, Painter nimbly portrays the trials of a country frequently at war with itself.

These essays resist easy answers in favor of complexity, the inescapable sense of our country’s potential thwarted by its failures. Along with Painter’s writing, this collection offers her original artwork, threaded throughout the book as counterpoint and emphasis. Her visual art shows a deft mind turning toward the tragedy and humor of her subjects; pulling from newspapers, personal records, and original sketches, Painter’s artwork testifies to the dialectic of tremendous change and stasis that continues to shape American history.

Nell Irvin Painter is the award-winning author of many books, including Standing at Armageddon and The History of White People. She is the Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita, at Princeton University. Ruha Benjamin is an internationally recognized writer, speaker, and professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, where she is the founding director of the Ida B. Wells Just Data Lab. She is the award-winning author of Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code, and Viral Justice, and editor of Captivating Technology, among many other publications.

This event is co-presented by Labyrinth and the Princeton Public Library and co-sponsored by Princeton University’s Humanities Council, Center for Collaborative History, and Department of African American Studies.

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