Imani Perry: Shining a Light on the Past to Shape the Future

An in-depth conversation with MacArthur fellow Imani Perry, exploring her interdisciplinary work and commitment to uncovering the forgotten stories of Black Americans.

When the MacArthur Foundation announced its class of 2023 “genius grant” fellows, one name stood out among the prestigious list of recipients: Imani Perry. As an interdisciplinary scholar and writer, Perry has dedicated her career to shedding light on the history and cultural expressions of Black Americans. In this exclusive interview, Perry shares her insights and motivations, offering a glimpse into her work and the impact it has on shaping our ethics for the present and future.

Uncovering Forgotten Stories: The Essence of Perry’s Work

Perry’s work revolves around what she describes as “haunting the past.” By directing her attention to those who have been disregarded throughout history, she aims to reclaim their stories and shed light on their contributions. With a focus on the experiences of Black Americans, Perry explores how they have navigated and thrived in the face of systemic injustice.

The Intersection of History and Cultural Expressions

As a Boston University professor, Perry delves into the intersection of history and cultural expressions. She examines how art, literature, music, and other creative forms have been utilized by Black Americans as a means of resistance and resilience. By studying these cultural expressions, Perry uncovers the rich tapestry of experiences and perspectives that have shaped the Black American narrative.

The Power of Representation

Perry emphasizes the importance of representation in her work. By amplifying the voices and stories of marginalized communities, she seeks to challenge dominant narratives and broaden our understanding of history. Through her research, Perry aims to bridge the gap between past and present, ensuring that the struggles and triumphs of those who came before us are not forgotten.

The MacArthur Fellowship: A Catalyst for Change

Being named a MacArthur fellow has provided Perry with the resources and recognition to further her research and advocacy. The fellowship not only validates her work but also enables her to reach a wider audience and effect meaningful change. Perry acknowledges the responsibility that comes with this honor and remains committed to using her platform to create a more inclusive and just society.

Building a Legacy for Future Generations

Perry’s work extends beyond academia. Through her writing and public engagements, she aims to inspire and empower future generations. By highlighting the stories of resilience and resistance, Perry hopes to instill a sense of pride and determination in young individuals, encouraging them to shape a better future.


Imani Perry’s dedication to uncovering forgotten stories and amplifying marginalized voices has earned her a well-deserved place among the MacArthur fellows of 2023. Through her interdisciplinary approach, Perry bridges the gap between history and cultural expressions, shedding light on the experiences of Black Americans and their enduring legacy. As she continues to haunt the past, Perry’s work serves as a guiding light, shaping our ethics for the present and future. Her commitment to representation and advocacy ensures that the stories of those who were once disregarded will not be forgotten, inspiring generations to come.






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