Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ebook of the Week - From Du Bois to Obama : African American Intellectuals in the Public Forum

Banner-Haley, Charles P.  From Du Bois to Obama : African American Intellectuals in the Public Forum. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2010

In From Du Bois to Obama, Charles Pete Banner-Haley briefly surveys (in 176 pages) the history of African American intellectualism, describing the efforts of black intellectuals in the ongoing struggle against racism. Banner-Haley asserts that African American intellectuals—a category that includes academicians, social critics, activists, and writers—serve to generate debate, policy, and change, act as a moral force to persuade Americans to acknowledge their history of slavery and racism, and prod the public at large to become more inclusive and accepting of humanity and to take responsibility for social justice.

Topics addressed include the frequent disconnect between black intellectuals and the masses for which they speak, the ways African American intellectuals identify themselves in relation to the larger black community, how black intellectuals have gained legitimacy in American society and have accrued moral capital, and how that moral capital has been expended. Among the figures covered in the book are W. E. B. Du Bois, Ralph Ellison, Oliver C. Cox, George S. Schuyler, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cornel West, Toni Morrison, bell hooks, and many others.

Banner-Haley discusses the emergence of black conservatism, with its accompanying questions about affirmative action, government intervention on behalf of African Americans, and the notion of a color-blind society.  He also looks at how popular music—particularly rap and hip-hop—television, movies, cartoons, and other media have functioned as arenas for investigating questions of identity, exploring whether African American intellectuals can also be “authentically” black. In a concluding discussion of the so-called ‘browning’ of America, Banner-Haley ponders what Obama’s election will mean for the future of race relations and black intellectualism in America.

Previewed by John Breitmeyer.  Click here to read the book.

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