The relationship of the enslaved past to the present has been an ongoing topic within African diaspora studies generally, and within Black feminist studies specifically. This essay traces a Black feminist genealogy rooted in Saidiya Hartman’s Lose Your Mother: A Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route (2007) and her essay “Venus in Two Acts” (2008). These are arguably two of the most influential works of scholarship in African American feminist studies of the past decade. Hartman’s attempt to use the archive to rescue those lost within, particularly girls and women, is a project also taken up in the three texts discussed here: Tina Campt’s Listening to Images (2017), Michelle D. Commander’s Afro-Atlantic Flight: Speculative Returns and the Black Fantastic (2017), and Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (2016). One of Hartman’s most important contributions is in juxtaposing the absences of the enslaved in the archive with the very real and present repercussions of what she calls the “aftereffects” of slavery on contemporary Black people, such as being subject to state violence. Hartman’s extraordinary work carries its own aftereffects in its influence on the writing of contemporary scholars of the Black diaspora. Campt, Commander, and Sharpe amplify her claim of the importance of the enslaved past to understanding contemporary Black lives.

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