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Citizen: An American Lyric | Study Guide

Claudia Rankine

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Citizen: An American Lyric | Key Figures

Key Figure Description
Speaker The speaker in these poems and essays uses the second person to refer to herself. She is the protagonist in the vignettes and the speaker in the poems. Read More
James Craig Anderson Chapter 6 contains a poem in memory of James Craig Anderson (1963–2011), a black man who was murdered by white teenagers.
Radcliffe Bailey Radcliffe Bailey (b. 1968) is an American mixed-media visual artist.
James Baldwin Rankine quotes James Baldwin multiple times in Chapter 6. Baldwin (1924–87) was a writer known for his social criticism.
Mel Chin Mel Chin (b. 1951) is an American visual artist whose work engages with a range of social and environmental issues. He is a 2019 MacArthur Fellow.
Dedmon In Chapter 6 Dedmon appears in "In Memory of James Craig Anderson." Rankine is referring to Deryl Dedmon Jr. (b. 1992), the teenager who was convicted of Anderson's murder in 2011.
Mark Duggan Mark Duggan (1981–2011), the topic of the Chapter 6 poem "In Memory of Mark Duggan," was a British man killed by police in 2011.
Sister Evelyn Sister Evelyn is a nun in Chapter 1 who does not suspect Mary Catherine of copying the speaker's work.
Jena Six The Jena Six, mentioned in Chapter 6, were six black high school students charged with attempted murder for beating a white student in 2006.
Glenn Ligon Glenn Ligon is (b. 1960) is an American conceptual artist whose work deals with issues of identity and race. He frequently uses pieces of text in his work, including quotations from Zora Neale Hurston and James Baldwin.
John Lucas John Lucas is Claudia Rankine's husband. The speaker sometimes refers to him simply as "he."
Trayvon Martin Rankine mentions Trayvon Martin (1995–2012) in Chapters 6 and 7. Martin was a black teenager who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman while visiting family.
Mary Catherine Mary Catherine is the name that the speaker gives her classmate in Chapter 1. Mary Catherine copies the speaker's answers in class and tells her she looks almost "like a white person."
Wangechi Mutu Wangechi Mutu (b. 1972) is a Kenyan-born American multimedia artist whose collages and installations often deal with the female body.
Barack Obama Barack Obama (b. 1961) was the 44th president of the United States (2009–17) and the first African American to hold that office.
Toyin Ojih Odutola Toyin Ojih Odutola (b. 1985) is a Nigerian-born visual artist. She uses multimedia drawing to investigate identity and bend the boundaries of genre.
Therapist In Chapter 1 the narrator visits the practice of her new therapist, who screams at the speaker. This incident indicates a serious issue with racism on the part of the therapist.
J.M.W. Turner English painter Joseph Mallord William Turner (sometimes today called William Turner; 1775-1851) is the most famous of Romantic landscape painters. He was also an abolitionist.
Carrie Mae Weems Carrie Mae Weems (b. 1953) is an American multimedia artist and photographer whose work engages with contemporary American life. She is a 2013 MacArthur fellow.
Serena Williams Serena Williams (b. 1981), who is discussed in Chapter 2, is a black American professional tennis player who has been repeatedly ranked number one.
Hennessy Youngman Hennessy Youngman, whose real name is Jayson Musson (b. 1977), is a YouTube video-maker mentioned in Chapter 2.
Zidenine Zidane Introduced in "Black-Blanc-Beur" in Chapter 6, Zidenine Zidane (b. 1972) is a former professional soccer player for France.
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