‘I Don’t Live Today’: English Professor’s New Book Explores Black, Indigenous Connections

Author: Matt Itelson, College of Liberal & Creative Arts
October 21, 2021

Sarita Cannon focuses on Jimi Hendrix, Radmilla Cody, other notable biracial Black Native Americans.


Activist Bvshpo Lawa (Many Knives) Glasschild wears a Malcolm X T-shirt, in Valena Broussard Dismukes’ black and white photo featured in “Black-Native Autobiographical Acts.” Photo courtesy of Valena Broussard Dismukes.

Jimi Hendrix single-handedly transformed the sound of the electric guitar with his virtuoso playing inspired by rock, blues, jazz — and his Native American heritage. A new book by San Francisco State University Professor Sarita Cannon explores Hendrix’s identity as a Black Cherokee as well as other notable Americans who share African and Indigenous roots.

“Black-Native Autobiographical Acts: Navigating the Minefields of Authenticity” (Lexington Books, 2021) also focuses chapters on the Federal Writers Project’s slave narratives from 1936 to 1938, model Radmilla Cody, photographer Valena Broussard Dismukes and early 1900s writer, actor and activist Sylvester Long Lance.

“This book is an invaluable resource for understanding Black-Native subjectivities, while also mapping the complexities of racial identity formation,” Seattle University English Professor Carlyn Ferrari said.

In the 2020 U.S. Census, more than 344,000 respondents self-identified as biracial African American and Native American/Alaska Native.

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