Mychal Denzel Smith is the author of The New York Times bestseller Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education and the forthcoming Stakes Is High. He is a fellow at Type Media Center. You can follow him on Twitter at @mychalsmith.
Thomas Jefferson, Pharrell, and more notes on the state of VirginiaNow, when strangers ask me where I’m from, I say, “Virginia Beach. We gave the world Pharrell. You’re welcome.” Pharrell was the black cosmopolitan force that proved my home wasn’t country. He was a living rebuke of what Thomas Jefferson wrote in Notes on the State of Virginia, his only book, in which he says you would “never . . . find that a black had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration; never see even an elementary trait of painting or sculpture.”