“Is Black Marriage Queer?” examines what Katherine Franke calls the “queer pairing” of the experiences of formerly enslaved black people and formerly criminalized gay men and lesbians that is at the center of her monograph Wedlocked: The Perils of Marriage Equality. While the book proposes to use the black past as a case study and a cautionary tale from which the gay present might learn lessons about the ways and means of marriage rights in America, Wedlocked, in a second pedagogical reversal, looks to the success of the contemporary marriage equality campaign in elevating the civil status of gay people as a counterpoint to the failure of matrimonial rights to do the same for heterosexual African Americans. This essay considers some of the assumptions about race, racism, and racial representation that underpin the architecture of Franke’s argument and the meaning of “black marriage” in American conjugal politics. Moving beyond the has been of the nineteenth century and even the is of the present, this essay reflects speculatively on what black marriage might become in the future, including the queer, Afro-futuristic possibilities proposed by cultural modalities such as the blockbuster film Black Panther.

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