Fluorescent Flags: Black Power, Publicity and American Counternarratives in Go-Go Street Posters of the 1980s

Authors: Natalie Hopkinson*, Howard University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Urban Geography, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: material culture, urban culture, segregation, black power, black public sphere, go-go music, publicity, landscape analysis, Chocolate City, posters,
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Maryland C, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This semiotic landscape analysis examines an archive of music publicity posters that appeared in the mid-1980s on the streets of America’s capital city, Washington, D.C. At their zenith, thousands of these posters advertising concerts for “go-go” (a local brand of funk) blanketed the city. The collection is a site to explore the calendars, rhythms, textures, history and movements of segregated black life. The paper argues these posters asserted a territory of black economic, cultural and political power; they resisted the narrative of a sanitized and ethnically cleansed “White City” designed for white tourists; and they countered false public narrative of D.C.’s native black population as dangerous, marginal and deviant. The collection challenges mythologies related to the inversion of race and power dynamics during the “Chocolate City” era. A crack-down on the practice of go-go postering was an early harbinger of gentrification.

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