Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 67, Issue 6, pp 655–671 | Cite as

Singing the Blues: Reflections on African American Men, the Emergence of Melancholic Selves, and the Search for Transformational Objects

  • Ryan LaMotheEmail author


This article examines the texts of four African American men—Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin, and Ta-Nehisi Coates—arguing that each text reflects, in part, the emergence of a melancholic self. This melancholic self arises as a result of internalizing the ubiquitous negative projections that come from social, political, economic, and cultural institutions or disciplinary regimes and the attending narratives that support, foster, and enforce racist beliefs (e.g., White superiority, Black inferiority). The internalization of negative projections, I contend, means that some Black children struggle to discover a positive sense of self in the public realm, and it is this ongoing encounter that gives rise to a melancholic faith wherein the child can expect not fidelity, trust, and hope vis-à-vis the public realm but rather betrayal, distrust, and futility vis-à-vis the possibility of the world ever presenting to him a positive self. In these texts, each man also identifies a moment in his early life when he became conscious of racist projections and the accompanying humiliations, as well as of the presence and power of his melancholic self. At the same time, this awareness, which is the first step in redemptive resistance, initiates a search for a transformational “object” that will liberate him from being in bondage to the melancholic self and its accompanying racial logic and faith, which, in turn, transforms his agency.


Melancholia Transformational objects Psychoanalysis Faith Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm X James Baldwin Ta-Nehisi Coates 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of TheologySt. MeinradUSA

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