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March 11 , 2011

Richard Pryor

American Id


One of the most powerful yet idiosyncratic voices of American culture, Richard Pryor often remains an enigma despite the strikingly personal quality of his best work. This series of essays attempts tracks the parallels between the comic’s work and the black experience, contextualizing his art and persona among the tradition of Southern storytellers, the Civil Rights movement, and the complicated racial identity of Reagan’s America. Focusing on the broad diversity of Pryor’s career, from his albums to his concert films to his movies, Jason Bailey attempts to answer a series of questions about this uniquely American entertainer: Was Richard Pryor a product of his society, or an instigator of it? Was Richard reflecting us, or were we reflecting Richard? Was he a mirror, or a prophet?

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