I’m a scholar, educator, nonfiction writer, and the author of White Negroes

photo of the author

Dr. Lauren Michele Jackson teaches in the Departments of English and African American Studies at Northwestern University. Her first book, White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue… and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation, is due out by Beacon Press on November 12, 2019 (preorder here). Her work (research, criticism, essays, and – on occasion – poetry) has appeared in The Atlantic, The Awl, ComplexFeminist Media Studies, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Journal, New Republic, The New Yorker, The Paris ReviewThe Point, Rolling StoneSpoon River Poetry ReviewTeen Vogue, and Vulture among other places.

She is represented by William Callahan at Inkwell Management.

Reach her via mail @ laur.m.jackson at gmail dot com.


White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue & and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation

Pre-order now
Beacon Press
Barnes & Noble
Penguin Random House

American culture loves blackness. From music and fashion to activism and language, black culture constantly achieves worldwide influence. Yet, when it comes to who is allowed to thrive from black hipness, the pioneers are usually left behind as black aesthetics are converted into mainstream success–and white profit. 

Weaving together narrative, scholarship, and critique, Lauren Michele Jackson reveals why cultural appropriation–something that’s become embedded in our daily lives–deserves serious attention. It is a blueprint for taking wealth and power, and ultimately exacerbates economic, political, social inequity that persists in America. She unravels the racial contradictions lurking behind American culture as we know it–from shapeshifting celebrities and memes gone viral to brazen poets, loveable potheads, and faulty political leaders.

An audacious debut, White Negroes brilliantly summons a re-interrogation of Norman Mailer’s infamous 1957 essay of a similar name. It also introduces a bold new voice in Jackson. Piercing, curious, and bursting with pop cultural touchstones, White Negroes is a dispatch in awe of black creativity everywhere and an urgent call for our thoughtful consumption.


“What I love most about Lauren Jackson’s incisive and richly detailed work in White Negroes is how it does not imagine any cultural phenomenon as something that does not have a history attached to it. And through the work of charting that history, a new cultural understanding arises. This is a vital text—one that offers new ways of seeing, hearing, and consuming.”

—Hanif Abdurraqib, author of They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us

“Like ‘intersectionality’ and ‘diversity’ and ‘neoliberalism’ and perhaps even ‘capitalism,’ the word ‘appropriation’ has taken on so many interpretations and interpolations as to court ontological disaster: what does it even mean? Lauren Michele Jackson wrestles with the idea, the concept, the history, the bodies, and the selves that are implicated in cultural appropriation. Jackson does not absolve anyone, but she does point toward some of the most complex corners of culture. In those corners she asks us to consider not freedom and choice but power. That emphasis on who can commodify appropriation is different from pedestrian debates about who can do appropriation. White Negroes is a mature meditation for debates that have, at times, wallowed in their own intellectual infancy. The collection is witty, wry, and welcome. In the vein of Imani Perry and Zoé Samudzi, this book is an excellent addition to critical thinking about culture and contemporary racial orders.”

—Tressie McMillan Cottom, author of Thick and Lower Ed

“We’ve needed this book for years, and yet somehow it’s right on time. Miraculously, Lauren Michele Jackson is able to write about cultural appropriation in a way that doesn’t make you want to drink a glass of sand. She brings incredible nuance and a sharp critical voice to a discussion that has sorely lacked both—yet somehow emerges with a text that is as accessible as it is theoretically relevant. Jackson avoids platitudes and easy answers, has a keen eye for history and popular culture, and, moreover, she is funny.”

—Eve L. Ewing, author of Electric Arches and Ghosts in the Schoolyard


I write essays, reported criticism, reviews, and features covering a variety of topics, including music, race, digital culture and technology, and pop culture. I also (sometimes) write poems.

Essays & criticism

The Atlantic

“Digital Jukeboxes Are Eroding the Dive-Bar Experience,” 2018.

“A Unified Theory of Meme Death,” 2017.

“Playing the Workaholic on Social Media,” 2016.

“The Hypocrisy of Revitalization: Universities in Black Communities,” 2014.

The Awl

“Out of Cite,” 2016.

“The Not-Always-Politics of Black Hair,” 2016.

“Drake’s Playground,” 2016.

“Texting Fever,” 2015.

“Memes and Misogynoir,” 2014.


“Why A New Mixed Race Generation Will Not Solve Racism,” 2017.


“Why Lana Del Rey and Hip Hop Make for a Natural Pairing,” 2017.

“Jay-Z’s 4:44 Reveals the Limits of Decoding Art As Fact,” 2017.

“In Defense of the Frivolous Pop Posse Cut,” 2017.

DAMN.” in “Ranking Kendrick Lamar’s Albums from Worst to Best,” 2017.

Lemonade” in “Best Albums of 2016,” 2016.

“It’s Not Just Trump and Beyoncé: Why White People Always Complain About Black Music,” 2016.

“With Magnificent Coloring Day, Chance Made Chicago the Cultural Hub of the Universe,” 2016.

“I Can Tell You All About Lemonade,” 2016

“The Raw Romanticism of Vulgar Pop Ballads,” 2016

“Kanye West, Black Art, and the Great Escape From Wokeness,” 2016.


“The White Lies of Craft Culture,” 2017


“Aretha Franklin, at one pivotal moment in time,” 2018.

“Chicago Children’s Choir Doesn’t Just Teach Kids To Sing Together. It’s Also Creating Global Citizens,” 2016.

“The Reality of Teen-Run Stan Accounts,” 2016.

“The Very Black Politics of Prince,” 2016.


“How Do We Live With Our Elders,” 2016.

Inside Higher Ed

“Program Recruitment From the Margins,” 2016.

In Media Res

“Meme merge,” 2016.

In These Times

Review: “Sorry to Bother You,” 2018.

Review: “Barracoon,” 2018.

Model View Culture

“The Blackness of Meme Movement,” 2016.

The New Inquiry

“A Deluxe Apartment in the Sky,” 2015.

“We Real Cool,” 2015

The New Yorker

Shudu Gram Is a White Man’s Digital Projection of Real-Life Black Womanhood,” 2018.

New York Magazine

Vulture: “A Deep Dive Into Ariana Grande’s ‘Breathin’’ Video,” 2018.

Vulture: “Who Really Owns the ‘Blaccent’?,” 2018.

Vulture: “How Did SpongeBob SquarePants Become the Most Meme-able TV Show?,” 2018.

Select/all: “Squidward, SpongeBob, and the Complex Emotions of FOMO,” 2018.

Daily Intelligencer: “National Geographic Replaces Racist Fictions With Post-racial Fantasies,” 2018.

Vulture: “Black Music Is Still an Essential Part of Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods,” 2018.

Vulture: “How Today’s Most Daring, Weird Cartoons Transform the Minstrel Aesthetic,” 2017.

The Paris Review

On Beyoncé, Beychella, and Hairography,” 2018.

The Point

“Skin in the Game: Notes from election night,” 2018.

“Touched by the Sacred,” 2018.

“Blackness + America,” 2017.

Real Life

“E•MO•JIS,” 2016.

Rolling Stone

“10 Years Later, Taylor Swift’s ‘Fearless’ Still Slaps,” 2018.

Teen Vogue

“Digital Blackface in Reaction GIFs,” 2017.

Poems, etc.

Banango Street

“three-fifths; or, annoyance in an age where we laugh at little black girls handed over to the Devil” (Issue 13)

Blackbird (forthcoming)


“I Can Tell You All About Lemonade”

Hayden’s Ferry Review

“Dear Miley Cyrus,” (Issue 61)

The Journal

“blue” (Issue 41.2)

Painted Bride Quarterly (forthcoming)

Nat. Brut

“you, yes you” (Issue 9; Pushcart Prize nominated)

Spoon River Poetry Review

“Something strange happens to the body when an afro is born” (Issue 42.2)

Up the Staircase Quarterly

“Open Letter To White Girls Walking Down The Wrong Side Of The Sidewalk” (Issue 37; Best of Net nominated)

Water~Stone Review (forthcoming)