This essay traces how a range of black cultural producers in the post–civil rights era represent and contest the transhistorical phenomenon I term imperative time, the dominant construction of time within racial capitalism as a demand or pressure exerted on black life. More specifically, I examine how imperative time constrains black mobility and comportment. I study Misha Green’s television series Lovecraft Country (2020) and James Alan McPherson’s essay “The Express” (2003) for their restagings of how Jim Crow imperatives continue to govern black movement beyond the time and terrain of segregation. I then analyze how McPherson’s short story “A Solo Song: For Doc” (1968) and Rankine’s prose poem Citizen (2014) and video-essay “Situation 5” (ca. 2011) figure black countermoves challenging the post–civil rights imperative to embody black progress. Through somatic acts of idleness, motive energy, and pointlessness, these cultural representations buck the demands of imperative temporalities. Studying how black movement sets the clock and calendar otherwise, this essay offers ways to rethink black chronology—not as accretive sequences but as oscillating, irresolute transits of time.

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