The legendary band leader Sun Ra said he came from Saturn. Known on Earth for his inventive music and extravagant stage shows, he pioneered...

The legendary band leader Sun Ra said he came from Saturn. Known on Earth for his inventive music and extravagant stage shows, he pioneered free-form improvisation in an ensemble setting with the devoted band he called the “Arkestra,” Sun Ra took jazz from the inner city to outer space, infusing traditional swing with far-out harmonies, rhythms, and sounds. Described as the father of Afrofuturism, Sun Ra created “space music” as a means of building a better future for American blacks here on earth.

A Pure Solar World: Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturism (University of Texas Press, 2016) offers a spirited introduction to the life and works of this legendary but underappreciated musician, composer, and poet. The book explores and assesses Sun R’as wide-ranging creative output–music, public preaching, graphic design, film and stage performance, and poetry–and connects his diverse undertakings to the culture and politics of his times, including the space race, the rise of technocracy, the civil rights movement, and even space-age bachelor-pad music. By thoroughly examining the astro-black mythology that Sun Ra espoused, A Pure Solar World: Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturism masterfully demonstrates that he offered both a holistic response to a planet desperately in need of new visions and vibrations and a new kind of political activism that used popular culture to advance social change. In a nation obsessed with space and confused about race, Sun Ra aimed not just at assimilation for the socially disfranchised but even more at a wholesale transformation of American society and a more creative, egalitarian world.

Author Paul Youngquist teaches at the University of Colorado at Boulder and is a professor in the English Department and associate chair of Graduate Studies. His current areas of research focus are British literature, cultural studies, literacy theory, popular culture, film/digital media, and Romanticism. He is the author or editor of six books, including Cyberfiction: After the Future, Monstrosities: Bodies and British Romanticism, and Race, Romanticism, and the Atlantic. Dr. Youngquist now devotes much of his energy to studying the histories written and oral of resistance and creativity in the Caribbean.


James Stancil is an independent scholar, freelance journalist, and the President and CEO of Intellect U Well, Inc. a Houston-area non-profit dedicated to increasing the joy of reading and media literacy in young people.

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