We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
“There’ll be no Rubik’s Cube, no Members Only jackets, and as little of Mr. T as I can manage,” author Nelson George warns in the introduction to his book Post-Soul Nation. And just in case you were wondering, there will be no talk of leg warmers, ribbon barrettes, or Punky Brewster, either. In fact, George eschews what he calls “racially blind ’80s nostalgia” entirely and documents both the “triumphant and tragic” experiences of African-Americans in the “post-soul” era—that uncertain yet promising period of time that began in the mid-’70s. In a detailed month-by-month chronology, George revisits every major social, cultural, and political milestone affecting blacks during the reign of Reagan—from Michael Jordan’s first dunk, Michael Jackson’s first moonwalk, and the birth of hiphop, to the devastating invention of crack and the beginning of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Often, George’s facts put recent events in perspective: Think John Allen Muhammad could be the Jackie Robinson of serial killers? He’s actually more like Larry Doby: George reminds us of the heinous crimes of Wayne Williams, whose early-’80s killing spree predated the sniper’s by more than 10 years. Post-Soul’s cultural relativism will prove especially interesting for ’80s babies who fondly remember black Smurf shirts and Denise Huxtable but have limited knowledge of the political entrance of Clarence Thomas or the death of Len Bias. With this sharp recounting, George considers the lasting impact of these formative years; at the time, not even Bo could have known the influence that the ’80s would have on black American life. George speaks at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 17, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Sarah Godfrey)