Black to the Future (FYI) at Union College: Course Overview

Taught by Robyn Reed

Speculation about the future is a universal human activity. In Science Fiction and other speculative literature, world-making is at the center of this exercise. Writers imagine alien encounters in distant galaxies or extraterrestrial visitors here on Earth. Space ships, cyborgs, androids, robots, and AI occupy many of these narratives. Yet, with this abundance of imagination and creativity, why has the future always appeared so white? We have imagined parasitic alien species, an intergalactic rebellion across the universe, and transporters that will allow us to travel at the molecular level, yet we couldn’t imagine Black people in the distant—and not so distant—future?

From that question the Afrofuturists emerged. Afrofuturism can be described as an aesthetic, a movement, and as a critical lens through which one can focus on – and center - Black themes, history, culture, and concerns in futuristic settings, reimagine the past, and recover hidden histories. In this class, we will explore Afrofuturism from the pioneers to the present-day griots of this speculative movement. We will analyze contemporary texts from the Afrofuturist canon, travel the sonic byways, and explore other Black cultural production by creators who are grounded in the past and have a more inclusive view of the future.