Houston A. Baker, Jr.
Houston Baker built African American studies as we know it. His foundational intervention in criticism, The Journey Back (1984) exhuming a history of black culture in America and challenges approaches to black aesthetics that foreclose on existing traditions. Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance (1989) and Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature (1987)similarly recover a positive version of Harlem’s modernism by mapping out “blues geographies,” dialectical mergers of high modernism and the vernacular in the arts. Subsequent work turns that revisionary and interdisciplinary eye to the academy, women’s writing, and rap. An introspective social leader, in his later years Baker has pivoted outward and inward, calling for a revival of the Civil Rights spirit, critiquing post-racial discourse, and reflecting on childhood in the South.