Black Vernacular Intellectuals–An Introduction

“Vernacular intellectuals are, as the process of bringing them to public prominence demonstrates, a complex representation of the voices from below or the margins speaking at once to, within, and against the hegemonic order”  Grant Farred. What’s My Name: Black Vernacular Intellectuals, p. 10

Grant Farred uses the introduction of What’s My Name to lay out his definition of what constitutes a vernacular intellectual, and it is no mistake that many of the idea’s he expounds upon fall in line with the works of African-American Journalist Salim Muwakkil and revolutionary Franz Fanon.

Through his redefining of who an intellectual can be, Farred examines Italian communist Antonio Gramsci’s infamous study of the intellectual as a functioning component of society: “In The Prison Notebooks, Gramsci’s conception of the organic intellectual differs from that of the traditional intellectual in that they represent both distinct historical moments and modes of being a thinker” ( Farred, 4). This breaks the types of intellectuals into three separate categories:

  • Traditional
  • Organic
  • Vernacular

I will attempt to examine the life and works of both Salim Muwakkil and Franz Fanon in a way which demonstrates their just classification as vernacular intellectuals. While both men represented something more akin to organic intellectualism in their lives, they either picked up the mantle of vernacularity later in their lives or were posthumously thrust into the category through popular culture.


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