Altered Narrative: Reclaiming Black History in "Lovecraft Country."

Date of Event



Altered Narrative: Reclaiming Black History in "Lovecraft Country."

Brief Description

In this paper I explored the genres of "horror noire" and afrofuturism by utilizing themes in the drama series "Lovecraft Country", and highlighted the importance of accurate representation. "Lovecraft Country" reframes the experience of Black people in the 1950's Jim Crow while including supernatural elements.

Extended Description

Traditionally, in the genres of horror and science fiction, people of color are depicted as secondary characters by white writers, which led to the desire to create alternative genres such as horror noire and afrofuturism that accurately emphasize black experiences in various settings. Although both afrofuturism and horror noire draws from the ideas of previously established genres, they are both far from subgenres. They redefine and reexamine the experience of the Black community and its resilience throughout history without solely highlighting the injustices inflicted upon them, but instead an altered narrative in which we are of free will. If you were to look at most horror and science fiction films, writers would frequently depict black characters as white actors in black face, the villain, or even the first one to die.

The drama series, Lovecraft Country, released on August 16th, 2020, pushes to showcase both afrofuturism and horror noire through the story of Atticus Freeman, an African-American soldier who recently returned to his hometown of Chicago after serving in Korea. Lovecraft Country is in the genre of horror noire as it explores the genre of horror through the black lens and elucidates the fears that the community possesses. Throughout the first episode, “Sundown” and episode six, “Meet Me in Daegu,” elements of horror in the lives of Black people remain a prominent theme. This series undoubtedly fits under the lens of afrofuturism as it reimagines the black experience in the 1950s Jim Crow America. The genres of afrofuturism and horror noire are highly influential for those who are lucky enough to encounter them because they give an accurate and complex voice to the global history and impact of Black people.

The genre of horror noir was derived from writers’ desire to create a space for writers to craft black stories that explicitly portray our history without demeaning black characters. Black history is black horror. The connection between black resilience and black trauma is a prominent theme in Lovecraft Country and is shown through the Freeman family’s encounters with racists and the Braithwaite family. In the first scene of the series, after waking up from a nightmare about his time with Kumiho spirit, Ji-Ah in Korea, protagonist Atticus wakes up to a woman on his bus notifying him that they made it to the “Promised Land”, which was a metaphor for their departure from the Jim Crow South.

Soon after, Atticus departs for a guide trip with his uncle George and childhood friend Letitia Lewis, who was the only female member of the “South Side Futurists Science Fiction Club.” Unsurprisingly, hours into their trip, they encounter obstacles such as being the victims of a hate crime at the gas station and, notably, their encounter with the Devon County Sheriff. Despite their uncertainty towards the diner, they decided to go anyway because they thought their information was credible and were chased out of town by racist rednecks who were most likely the same people who burned down the diner possibly months before because the woman chose to serve Black customers. After this, the topic of Sundown Towns is introduced when Atticus, Uncle George, and Lettie are caught using the bathroom in the forest by the Devon County Sheriff, who gave them exactly seven minutes to get out of town because that is when the sun was expected to set. Sundown towns are (or were) all-white by design. To determine whether a community is or was a sundown town, considering racial composition is paramount. Sundown towns date, by and large, to 1890-1940, an era historians call the "nadir of race relations," when lynching peaked and Jim Crow practices tightened throughout most of the nation.” (Loewen). Through this quote, it becomes evident that the creation of sundown towns is predictably the result of the United States’ indifference towards the black community. This parallel is also shown through their encounter with the sheriff and how he was able to trick them into thinking that he was going to let them get away when in reality, he had police by the state lines awaiting their arrival to lynch them.

In episode six, “Meet Me in Daegu,” the prominent horror elements are associated with Ji-Ah, a young Korean woman who unintentionally became aware of the fact that Atticus will die if he returns home to America. In the first episode, when asked by the woman on the bus why he decided to enlist in the army, he expressed that he needed to get away from his father who saw his enlistment as a joke because he decided to fight for a country that blatantly does not support him. Through this encounter, writers bring forth the complicated history between African-American soldiers and the army as our presence was only welcomed in fights that ensured the safety of the “superior” race, for the freedoms that were stripped from us by the very people who we were expected to fight next to. This conflict between citizenship and identity is no stranger to the black community as we are frequently expected to conceal our identities in various pursuits, notably in our careers. This theme is yet another example of why genres such as horror noire are instrumental in expressing the unheard and unaddressed issues that the Black community continues to face but tells them through credible sources that seek to portray the community in a way that does not solely highlight trauma but instead shed light on resilience as well.

The series, Lovecraft Country, highlights the importance of telling black stories in a world where we are under or misrepresented in mainstream art. In a scene at the beginning of the episode, Atticus is seen picking up a science fiction novel by H.P. Lovecraft, a notable American writer of horror fiction, but an even more notable racist man. Too often, people of color are expected to tirelessly study and praise the works of writers who were known by their respective communities for being ignorant in ways that would not be accepted by society today. In classrooms worldwide, this remains undoubtedly true, especially in our own history books they were whitewashed and altered to fit the frame of what was desired by white leaders in American society. Contrasting this, writers Misha Green, Jordan Peele, Shannon Houston, Wes Taylor, etc., each bring forth a perspective that is unattainable for non-black writers. To say that it is important to have the ability to control your own narrative is an understatement because when the responsibility shifts to someone dissimilar to the group they seek to depict, disparities in cultural and racial knowledge become evident.

Loewen, James W. "Sundown towns and counties: racial exclusion in the South." Southern Cultures, vol. 15, no. 1, 2009, p. 22+


Chicago, IL

Student creator name(s)

Jordyn Ford


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