Meaning Falls Apart

Anagrammatical Blackness and Memorialization at the Museum


  • Bradley Hinger Department of Geography, The Pennsylvania State University


Memorialization, racism, whiteness, Cincinnati, museum


This paper uses Christina Sharpe’s concept of “anagramatical blackness” to explore the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center as an example of what I will term the anagramatical landscape. Sharpe writes that Blackness anagramatically shifts the meaning of people, places, and things. The Freedom Center is a museum located in Cincinnati, Ohio dedicated to telling the story of American slavery as well as other stories of civil and human rights. I examine the Freedom Center as more than a museum, but also as a memorial because of its geographic location along the boundary between the American North and South as well as its situation within the wider American geographic imagination as a site of “National” history telling. Content analysis of TripAdvisor reviews by visitors shows that these people struggle with their preconceived notions about what stories are being told as well as for who they are being told. Using Sharpe’s idea that when words come up against Blackness, their meanings shift, I look at the Freedom Center as an anagramatical space that white reviewers fear they may not have access to because of its focus on the story of Black people resisting against white supremacy.  It is only when they reposition whiteness within the narrative or, as Sharpe writes, “redact” blackness, and decode the memorial landscape through epistemological whiteness, that this space becomes comprehensible. Through the use of this framework, I take the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center as an example of how geographers might expand upon the idea of the anagramatical landscape to understand opposition to memorial work that centers Black lives.


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How to Cite

Hinger, B. (2022). Meaning Falls Apart: Anagrammatical Blackness and Memorialization at the Museum. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 21(5), 502–519. Retrieved from



Special Issue - Monumentality, Memoryscapes, and the Politics of Place