Cornel West takes an unflinching look at nineteenth- and twentieth-century African American leaders. Joining him to discuss these visionary legacies is James H. Cone. Please join us.
In his new book, Cornel West, together with distinguished scholar Christa Buschendorf, provides a fresh perspective on six revolutionary African American leaders: Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker, Malcolm X, and Ida B. Wells. He examines the impact of these men and women on their own eras and across the decades. He not only rediscovers the integrity and commitment within these passionate advocates but also their fault lines.
West describes Douglass as a complex man who is both “the towering Black freedom fighter of the nineteenth century” and a product of his time who lost sight of the fight for civil rights after the emancipation. He calls Du Bois “undeniably the most important Black intellectual of the twentieth century” and explores the more radical aspects of his thinking in order to understand his uncompromising critique of the United States, which has been omitted from the American collective memory. West argues that our selective memory has sanitized and even “Santaclausified” Martin Luther King Jr., rendering him less radical, and has marginalized Ella Baker, who embodies the grassroots organizing of the civil rights movement. The controversial Malcolm X, who is often seen as a proponent of reverse racism, hatred, and violence, has been demonized in a false opposition with King, while the appeal of his rhetoric and sincerity to students has been sidelined. Ida B. Wells, West argues, shares Malcolm X’s radical spirit and fearless speech, but has “often become the victim of public amnesia.”
Dr. Cornel West is a prominent public intellectual. A professor at Union Theological Seminary, he has also taught at Yale, Harvard, and Princeton. He has written many important books, including Race Matters and Democracy Matters. He appears frequently on Real Time with Bill Maher, The Colbert Report, Democracy Now, CNN, C-SPAN, and other national and international media. Professor James H. Cone, known as the founder of black liberation theology, is Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary. Dr. Cone is best known for his ground-breaking works, Black Theology & Black Power and A Black Theology of Liberation; he is also the author of Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare? and of The Cross and the Lynching Tree, among other books.