Autobiography of an Ex-White Man: Learning a New Master Narrative for America

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Overview

Autobiography of an Ex-White Man is an intensely personal meditation on the nature of America by a White Philosopher who joined a Black Studies Department and found his understanding of the world transformed by the experience. The book begins with an autobiographical narrative of the events leading up to Wolff's transfer from a Philosophy Department to the W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, and his experiences in the Department with his new colleagues, all of whom had come to Academia from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Wolff discovered that the apparently simple act of moving across campus to a new Department in a new building worked a startling change in the way he saw himself, his university, and his country. Reading as widely as possible to bring himself up to speed in his new field of academic responsibility, Wolff realized after a bit that his picture of American history and culture was undergoing an irreversible metamorphosis. America, he realized, has from its inception been a land both of Freedom and of Bondage -- Freedom for the few, and then for those who are White, Bondage at first for the many, and then for those who are not White. Slavery is thus not an aberration, an accident, a Peculiar Institution -- it is the essence and core of the American experience.

Wolff's optimistic outlook leads him to express the hope that our acknowledging the realities of America's racial history and present will begin to tear down the formidable barrier to change. He sees this refashioning of the American story as a first step toward the crafting of a truly liberatory project.

Robert Paul Wolff is Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the author of numerous books, including Introductory Philosophy and In Defense of Anarchism.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
(this) should be required reading for all introductory courses in American and Afro-American history courses. It should perhaps be the initial book assigned. Wolff provides one of the fullest treatments to date of how writers of American history have failed to portray pre- and post-Civil War blacks as individuals with passion, skills, and a fully developed ironic understanding of their own situation. --Jesse T. Moore, Jr., Professor of History, University of Rochester, and author of The Search for Equality: The National Urban League, 1910-1961 Robert Paul Wolff has worn many hats in his distinguished philosophical career. Now, in this fascinating memoir/manifesto, he recounts what may be his most remarkable transformation yet: from unwittingly Eurocentric white Professor of Philosophy to Professor in an Afro-American Studies Department undergoing a black personal enlightenment about the real racial history of the United States, the extent to which textbooks by established authorities in the field are full of racial mystifications, and -- ineluctably and most intimately--his own white self. --Charles Mills, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University of Illinois, and author of The Racial Contract
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580463133
  • Publisher: Boydell & Brewer, Limited
  • Publication date: 2/2/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 150
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Autobiography of an ex-white man 1
2 Mr. Shapiro's wedding suit 30
3 A new master narrative for America 61
4 The American griot 98
The original syllabus of fifty major works of Afro-American studies 129
Books by Robert Paul Wolff 132
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