A History of Black Futures
From Benjamin Banneker’s Almanac to P. Funk’s Mothership, from Octavia Butler’s fiction to the Black Panther suit, Afrofuturism has provided a dynamic outlet for authors, thinkers, artists, and activists to understand and interpret the history of race and Black cultural identity.
Drawing from the past and present through a prism of technology and fantasy, Afrofuturism provides a powerful lens for imagining the African American experience. From artists to astronauts, the themes of Afrofuturism reflect the forward-facing possibilities of Black life—possibilities which stretch beyond contemporary reality.
Afrofuturism tells us about how the past thought about the future; and how African Americans dreamt of worlds they wished to occupy and soon brought into being.
Kevin Young, Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture
In 1993 cultural critic Mark Dery coined the term Afrofuturism. But even before the name Afrofuturism existed, the ideas of Afrofuturism were long present—for African Americans have always reimagined their pasts, sought a better present, and envisioned brighter futures.
Through technological experimentation, lyrical speculation, and forward-looking design, Black artists have used Afrofuturistic ideals as a medium to liberate their artistry and create new musical futures. This timeline highlights where Afrofuturist expression can be seen in Black musical history, whether through experiments in composition, the design of new technologies, or the exploring of ideas.