Lisa Spiro Protects “Postmodern Blackness”

My first (and currently the last) cease and desist threat came not from some Hollywood agency but from a University of Virginia magazine, Postmodern Culture. Back in 2002, I attempted to re-publish a bell hooks essay, “Postmodern Blackness,” on An email came soon after…

Dear Mr. Wilhite:

Thank you for notifying us that you have posted a copy of bell hooks’ “Postmodern Blackness” to your website. Unfortunately, by doing so you have violated copyright law. According to PMC’s contract with its publisher, the author retains copyright of any work published in PMC, although PMC and Johns Hopkins University Press must be credited whenever an article is re-published. A third party can’t reprint or repost, without permissions from both author and, at this point, JHUP.

There is a relatively simple solution to this problem: rather than re-posting the article, you can include a link to the article as it originally appeared in Postmodern Culture. The link should be to PMC’s text only archive, which is accessible for free:

For an example of how such a link would work, please see .

If you choose to retain the currrent format for the re-posted article, you must secure permissions from both Professor hooks and Johns Hopkins University Press. I believe that you can contact Professor hooks via Oberlin College; the phone number for the English Department is (440)775-8570.

Please keep PMC updated on what course of action you choose to pursue.


Lisa Spiro
Managing Editor
Postmodern Culture
fax (804) 982-2363

Alderman Library, 3rd Floor
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22903

Buy this book at!First, let me congratulate University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center for successfully (evidently) not violating copyright law. What stands out from this adventure is that bell hooks herself told me to publish her work anyway—but I did not. I decided to learn from this experience instead. I learned that when young, Black academics set out on a religious quest to be recognized by the ‘proper authorities’ they will know why the caged bird sings.

Successful, established authors often lose control over their own work. It is this deal with ‘the devil’ at the crossroads that can seem so ironic for African-descended people preaching about freedom, dignity and independence. As long as the ignorant sycophants don’t see the silken slave shackles it’s all good—right? I’m not saying that bell hooks is in any way associated with this game. I am saying that this experience with bell hooks reminds me of people who definitely are…

Fortunately bell hooks came out from the gilded academic cage from time to time. We have one of those times in the form of streaming audio, “bell hooks: Connecting Self and Community,” here at