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Frank Wilderson III


Frank B. Wilderson, III is an award-winning writer, activist, and critical theorist who spent five and a half years in South Africa, where he was one of two Americans  to have held an elected office in the African National Congress during the country’s transition from apartheid. He also worked clandestinely as a member of the ANC’s armed wing Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK).

In the late ’80s, Frank Wilderson used his life story to help college students understand South African apartheid, a popular political cause of the day on U.S. campuses. Educated in the hard-knock school of activism amid the Black Panther Party and UC Berkeley’s famous student uprisings, Wilderson went on to settle in South Africa; once there, he simultaneously taught university classes and assisted in the African National Congress’ revolutionary actions.

In 1995, a South African journalist informed Wilderson that President Nelson Mandela considered him “a threat to national security.” Wilderson was asked to comment. Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid is that “comment.” A literary tour de force, Incognegro has sparked fierce debate in both America and South Africa. It retells a story most Americans assume we already know, with a sometimes awful, but ultimately essential clarity about global politics and our own lives. Incognegro received the American Book Award, the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award, the Eisner Prize for Creative Achievement of the Highest Order, and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship.

In 2010, Duke University Press published Frank Wilderson’s monograph on cinema, politics, and race: Red, White, & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms. Wilderson’s poetry, creative prose, critical, and film production (Reparations…Now a work in progress) are predicated on the notion that slavery did not end in 1865; the United States simply made adjustments to the force of Black resistance without diminishing the centrality of Black captivity to the stability and coherence of civil society. This assumptive logic has helped catalyze a new school of thought in the academy and beyond, called Afro-Pessimism.

Wilderson lectures widely in the U.S. as well as Europe and South Africa on race and activism, visual culture and political antagonisms, ethics and artistic practice, and the political stakes of Afro-Pessimism. A prolific and versatile writer, Frank B. Wilderson, III has received numerous writing awards, including The Eisner Prize for Creative Achievement of the Highest Order, The Crothers Short Story Award, The Judith Stronach Award for Poetry, The Jerome Foundation Artists and Writers Award, The Loft-McKnight Award for Best Prose in the State of Minnesota, and The Maya Angelou Award for Best Fiction Portraying the Black Experience in America. His fiction and creative prose, as well as his critical and scholarly work, have been published internationally.


Praise for Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid

“An incredible piece of history, of Black life domestically and globally, written with brilliance, panache and delicious wit. He miraculously recapture[s] the fury, the funk and the sweetness of the ’60s–and its broken dreams… and bitter betrayals… He is truly a wonderful writer!”

– Mumia Abu-Jamal, author of We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party

“Into the wake of great literature fighting human bondage, Frank Wilderson pours Incognegro. And, like the offerings of Ellison, Fanon, Baldwin and Morrison, this revolutionary love story must be widely read, generously shared, and relentlessly engaged.”

 – Joy James, author of Shadowboxing: Representations of Black Feminist Politics


“Fast paced, critical, humorous, hilarious at times, Incognegro asks provocative questions about post-Apartheid South Africa and post-civil rights America with all the passion, the drama and the political clarity of a great autobiography. With perspectives from different times and places in the two continents, and with an unerring eye and ear for a telling detail and image, Frank Wilderson brings a novelistic and dramatic imagination to a story of our times. It is a multi-layered narrative of a life molded in struggles for human dignity in America and Africa, at once a gripping story of race politics and a biography of his soul.”

– Ngugi wa Thiong’o, author of The Wizard of the Crow


With Incognegro, “Wilderson has offered an important and groundbreaking story of the last days of apartheid. It is not the official history of the ANC…and it is not the “rainbow nation” narrative of reconciliation most often sought in the new South Africa…More than anything Incognegro teaches us that the fall of apartheid was not bloodless or peaceful, that the corruption of neo-colonialism inhabits South Africa still, and it invites us, wherever we are, inside or outside South Africa, to tear down ourselves to the very foundations.”

-Meta L. Schettler, Professor of Africana Studies, Cal State Fresno; author of Malibongwe: Personal Narratives of Women in the Armed Struggle in South Africa (Doctoral dissertation)


Incognegro is “an important contribution to the African and African American canons and a rare American work that bridges two cultures…Wilderson [will] become a major American writer. Mark my word.”

– Ishmael Reed, Novelist, Poet, and Publisher


Praise for Red, White & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms

“I have not read anything as striking as Red, White & Black in some time. In this unsettling work, Frank B. Wilderson III theorizes the singularity of anti-Blackness as he refines our understanding of how political economy, popular culture, and law are shot through with identification and desire, pleasure and pain, sexuality and aggression. Anti-Blackness, which is carefully distinguished here from White supremacy, is not only an ideology and an institutional practice; it is also a structure of feeling with pervasive effects. This last, crucial point is glossed over by too many authors in their haste to provide rational analyses of and challenges to racism.”

– Jared Sexton, author of Amalgamation Schemes: Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism


“Red, White & Black challenges scholars of film, race, ethnicity, American studies, and cultural studies to rethink many of the assumptions that animate our work. Pairing analyses of film representations of U.S. racial antagonisms animated by images of Blacks with those that work through images of Indians provides a new and exciting critical framework. Red, White & Black provokes scholars to reckon with the political implications of Frank B. Wilderson’s call to think structures of Blackness, Whiteness, and Redness in the United States both in conjunction with and in contradistinction to each other.”

– Kara Keeling, author of The Witch’s Flight: The Cinematic, the Black Femme, and the Image of Common Sense

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