How does it feel? The ten-year timeline pressing hard against 2000 is a site of deep nostalgia and crucial speculation, a period of great anticipation troubled by occasional distress, a moment marked by fond reflection upon a century almost past coupled with a visceral premillennial tension. The decade is distinguished by a drive to codify culture, a rush to establish definitions and parameters regarding signage, difference, authenticity, and authority of representation, including the perilous quest to keep it real.
Alongside or underneath the so-called culture wars of the mainstream academy and the many presumptions of the always-already, black life in and of the 1990s is indicated in the rise of the stylized public intellectual; in a more prominent documentation of black interiority, black image, black sound; and in a refined critique of Americanness and of blackness itself. Slipping toward the popular, this framing is especially generative and challenging in terms of ideas about the relationship of culture to nation, of body to state—with an emphasis on the resonant advent of newer information technologies.
Directed by university professor Scott Heath, this critical archive of the Black 90s was initiated in the graduate seminar of an identical name. The design team of MA and PhD students selected items with reference to specific materials as well as particular spaces of recall. Each artifact in the archive is an active mechanism, a narrative instrument built around moments of collective memory. This digital humanities project relies on community access and input to determine what the Black 90s means for us and does for us culturally. And, perhaps, amid this juxtaposition of sociohistorical matter, we will even make time to speak of love.