Empire and Black Images in Popular Culture


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About the Book

FOX’s musical drama Empire has been hailed as the savior of broadcast television, drawing 15 million viewers a week. A “hip-hopera” inspired by Shakespeare’s King Lear and 1980s prime-time soap Dynasty, the series is at the forefront of a black popular culture Renaissance—yet has stirred controversy in the black community. Is Empire shifting paradigms or promoting pernicious stereotypes? Examining the evolution and potency of black images in popular culture, the author explores Empire’s place in a diverse body of literature and media, data and discussions on respectability.

About the Author(s)

Joshua K. Wright, Ph.D., is an associate professor of history in the Global Studies Department at Trinity Washington University in Washington, DC. He is the host of Woke History, a new podcast series streaming on the National Public Radio (NPR) One app.

Bibliographic Details

Joshua K. Wright
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 240
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2018
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7367-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3250-6
Imprint: McFarland

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “This seminal book unapologetically and authentically explores layered images of African Americans connected to, or at least coeval, with the television drama Empire. With amazing clarity and nuanced thoroughness the author provides compelling examples of a television programming renaissance and a kaleidoscope of portrayals that transcend stereotypes. This wonderful book splendidly detangles pernicious media myths and shows that television is not an impenetrable cultural bubble.”—Elizabeth Clark-Lewis, Howard University
  • “I am truly impressed with the book’s subject matter and content. What I especially commend Dr. Wright for is his thorough contextualization of the images of African Americans in Empire. Armed with past and current film and television series images and representations of African Americans interwoven with sociological and historical research, Wright’s examination of the father, the mother, the sons, and the characters together as a black family in Empire shows how the images of African Americans have changed while remaining the same. Furthermore, the empirical audience research is quite useful for assessing African Americans’ reception of Empire. Finally, tracking the ‘Empire Effect’ provides a 21st century starting point for gauging the exodus and exile of African Americans’ involvement in television in the decades to come.”—Angela Nelson, Bowling Green State University