“Black Patience” Named Hooks National Book Award Winner

black patience book cover performance, civil rights, and the unfinished project of emancipation, by julius b. fleming jr.

December 6, 2023 —The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis has selected “Black Patience: Performance, Civil Rights, and the Unfinished Project of Emancipation” by Dr. Julius B. Fleming, Jr. (New York University Press) as the 2022 Hooks National Book Award winner. The award will be presented in February.

“Julius Fleming Jr.’s ‘Black Patience’ emerged from a dynamic collection of finalists by combining an engaging narrative of the Civil Rights Movement with stories of African American artists who used theater as a key site in moving the civil rights struggle forward, particularly in its rejection of calls for ‘black patience’ surrounding the end of Jim Crow segregation and voting rights” says Dr. Terrence Tucker, chair and professor in the University of Memphis Department of English and chair of the Hooks National Book Award committee. “Instead of merely using the language of theater to describe black performances during this volatile, complex period, Fleming casts the work by black artists and activists as another front in which the impact of racial discrimination and African American humanity could be addressed and dramatized. The book chronicles how African American artists countered the larger historical tradition of suspending push for emancipation in ‘time and space’ by demonstrating the urgency of ‘freedom now’ in the lives of African Americans and the country at large.” 

About “Black Patience: Performance, Civil Rights, and the Unfinished Project of Emancipation”
Freedom, Now! This rallying cry became the most iconic phrase of the Civil Rights Movement, challenging the persistent command that Black people wait—in the holds of slave ships and on auction blocks, in segregated bus stops and schoolyards—for their long-deferred liberation.

In “Black Patience,” Julius B. Fleming Jr. argues that during the Civil Rights Movement, Black artists and activists used theater to energize this radical refusal to wait. Participating in a vibrant culture of embodied political performance that ranged from marches and sit-ins to jail-ins and speeches, these artists turned to theater to unsettle a violent racial project that Fleming refers to as “Black patience.” Inviting the likes of James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Alice Childress, Douglas Turner Ward, Duke Ellington, and Oscar Brown Jr. to the stage, “Black Patience” illuminates how Black artists and activists of the Civil Rights era used theater to expose, critique and repurpose structures of white supremacy. In this bold rethinking of the Civil Rights Movement, Fleming contends that Black theatrical performance was a vital technology of civil rights activism, and a crucial site of Black artistic and cultural production.

Additional recognition for “Black Patience” includes Honorable Mention for the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present 2023 Book Prize, Honorable Mention for the 2023 John W. Frick Book Award of the American Theatre and Drama Society and Finalist for the 2022 George Freedley Memorial Award of the Theatre Library Association.


About Julius B. Fleming, Jr.
Julius B. Fleming Jr. is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park. He earned a doctorate in English, and a graduate certificate in Africana studies, from the University of Pennsylvania. Specializing in Afro-diasporic literatures and cultures, he has particular interests in performance studies, black political culture, diaspora, and colonialism, especially where they intersect with race, gender, and sexuality. Fleming has been awarded fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the University of Virginia’s Carter G. Woodson Institute.


About the Hooks National Book Award  
The Hooks Institute’s National Book Award is presented to a non-fiction book published in the calendar year that best furthers understanding of the American civil rights movement and its legacy. Finalists for the national book award were chosen from 45 books that were nominated for the 2022 award. In addition to “Black Patience” the finalists for the award were:

  • “Black American Refugee: Escaping the Narcissism of the American Dream” by Tiffanie Drayton (Viking/Penguin Random House)
  • “Bertha Maxwell-Roddey: A Modern-Day Race Woman and the Power of Black Leadership” by Dr. Sonya Y. Ramsey (University of Florida Press)
  • “Progressive Prosecution: Race and Reform in Criminal Justice” by Kim Taylor-Thompson and Anthony C. Thompson (New York University Press)
  • “The Third Reconstruction” by Dr. Peniel E Joseph (Basic Books)
  • “Waging a Good War: A Military History of the Civil Rights Movement” by Thomas E. Ricks (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Hooks National Book Award Committee  
The Hooks Institute extends its gratitude to the 2022 Hooks National Book Award committee. In addition to Tucker, it includes Dr. Beverly Cross, Lillian and Morrie Moss Chair of Excellence in Urban Education at the UofM; Dr. Charles McKinney, associate professor of History at Rhodes College; Dr. Ladrica Menson-Furr, assistant dean of the UofM College of Arts and Sciences, associate professor of English and director of African and African American Studies; and Dr. Ladonna Young, Educational Consultant.  

For more information, visit memphis.edu/benhooks/programs/book-award.php.


About the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change  
The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute implements its mission of teaching, studying and promoting civil rights and social change through research, education and direct intervention programs. Institute programs include community outreach; funding faculty research initiatives on community issues; implementing community service projects; hosting conferences, symposiums, and lectures; and promoting local and national scholarship on civil and human rights. The Hooks Institute is an interdisciplinary center at the University of Memphis. Contributed revenue for the Hooks Institute, including funding from individuals, corporations, and foundations, is administered through the University of Memphis Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization.

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