Finding Frank: Black Queer Expression and the Midwestern Archive
Examining a collection of dissonant artifacts from Midwestern archives, this talk centers on Frank Harriott, a forgotten black writer of the 1950s, and the vibrant, cross-disciplinary world in which he created, and argues that more critical attention should be paid to regional queer cultural production (despite archival stumbling blocks) as rewarding detours from the habitual blind spots in our largely still segregated approaches to American literary studies. Specifically, how do racially conscribed concepts like the Black Chicago Renaissance diminish the desegregated cultural terrain that post-WWII African American visual artists and writers labored to form? Equally, how do our increasingly routine narratives of Cold War culture and Post Expressionism simplify, if not erase, the importance of black artists to these key aesthetic moments? This talk, in part, tells an interracial (queer) love story and considers literary critics’ reluctance to engage such narratives.