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Sun Ra's ChicagoAfrofuturism and the City$
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William Sites

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226732077

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226732244.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 27 September 2021

“Sound So Loud It Will Wake Up the Dead”

“Sound So Loud It Will Wake Up the Dead”

(p.93) 5 “Sound So Loud It Will Wake Up the Dead”
Sun Ra's Chicago

William Sites

University of Chicago Press

In the early 1950s Sonny Blount and his friend Alton Abraham formed Thmei Research, a secret society devoted to the study of the origins and identity of black Americans. This chapter examines the group’s polemical broadsheets—typewritten commentaries that combine biblical hermeneutics, millenarian warnings, and religious diatribes of various kinds with Africanist mythology, creative etymology, and critical pronouncements on the Cold War. Tracing the emergence of these ideas from soapbox gathering sites in the South Side’s Washington Park, the chapter connects the contentious Ethiopianism of the broadsheets to a resurgent current of religious nationalism in black Chicago at a moment when the city’s European immigrant communities were developing a “harder” white racial identity. The broadsheets draw creatively on Afrocentric mythologies and New Age theosophy to reimagine all of human history—from Biblical lineages and ancient geographies to twentieth-century American pop lyrics—as a racial lie. Carrying the meaning of ancient events forward to explain racial oppression in 1950s Chicago, the Thmei authors also strive to make black emancipation not a distant dream but an ever-present possibility. In the process, these texts furnish important insights into how Sonny Blount became Sun Ra.

Keywords:   Alton Abraham, Chicago, Ethiopianism, Thmei Research, broadsheets, Washington Park, Sonny Blount, Sun Ra, religious nationalism

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