Essential Harold Cruse: A Reader

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In 1967, as the movement for civil rights was turning into a bitter, often violent battle for black power, Harold Cruse’s The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual burst onto the scene. It was a lacerating attack on integration, and set the agenda for black cultural, social, and political autonomy. A classic of African American social thought, the book and its author went on to influence generations of activists, artists, and scholars. Cruse’s intelligence, independence, and breadth of vision virtually defined what it meant to be a black intellectual in modern America. In this first anthology of Cruse’s writing, William Jelani Cobb provides a powerful introduction to Cruse’s wide body of work, including published material such as excerpts from Crisis, as well as unpublished essays, speeches, and correspondence. The Essential Harold Cruse is certain to become standard reading for anyone interested in race in American society.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The anthology of Harold Cruse’s work is essential reading for anyone interested in American letters.” —Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Yo’ Mama’s DisFunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America

“I enthusiastically applaud the publication of The Essential Harold Cruse...Where Malcolm X was the intellectual inspiration of Black Power and Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Turé) was its principal ideological architect, Cruse was without question its definitive critical interlocutor.” —Adolph Reed, Jr., New School University

“Eloquent, passionate, forceful — Harold Cruse has had an electrifying impact on an entire generation of African American intellectuals.” —Gerald Home, author of Race Woman

Robin D. G. Kelley
The anthology of Harold Cruse's work is essential reading for anyone interested in American letters.
Gerald Home
Eloquent, passionate, forceful -- Harold Cruse has had an electrifying impact on an entire generation of African American intellectuals.
Adolph Reed Jr.
I enthusiastically applaud the publication of The Essential Harold Cruse...Cruse was without question its definitive critical interlocutor.
New School University
Publishers Weekly
Harold Cruse is best known for 1967's The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, an influential call for black autonomy, warning against integration as a strategy. Edited by regular Washington Post contributor William Jelani Cobb, The Essential Harold Cruse: A Reader includes essays from the early 1960s on race, bohemianism, James Baldwin and Cuba; three chapters of Crisis, three from Rebellion or Revolution (1968) and further essays and speeches from the Black Power era; one chapter from Plural but Equal (1987) and a selection of other post-Black Power writings that address theater and music. The introduction by cultural critic Stanley Crouch is useful, but a more complete and analytical intellectual biography is still wanted. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Editor Cobb (visiting assistant professor, history, Spelman Coll.) here offers essential reading for anyone interested in black politics and culture. Cruse is known mostly for his classic text, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, and his anti-integrationist and black nationalist views. His writings are respectful of some of America's greatest thinkers and cultural workers, e.g., James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, and W.E.B. DuBois, but he doesn't hold back when eloquently disputing their ideas and actions. Cruse brings his critical analysis to bear on issues like black leadership and aesthetics, the interrelationship of politics and culture, civil disobedience, capitalism, the establishment of a black independent political party, and the realities of American culture topics still worthy of debate today. The reader is arranged thematically and chronologically, from Cruse's years in the Communist Party and as a playwright in Greenwich Village (1951-63) to the publication of Plural but Equal. A 1997 interview with Cruse closes the collection. Cruse's legacy is awe-inspiring, and this new work is highly recommended for public and academic libraries. Sherri Barnes, Univ. of California Lib., Santa Barbara Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Harold Cruse's 1967 treatise called for black cultural, social, and political autonomy and influenced generations of activists, artists, and scholars. This anthology of Cruse's writings features excerpts of and other published material along with previously unpublished essays, speeches, and correspondence. The volume concludes with a 1997 interview with Cruse. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312293963
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

William Jelani Cobb's writings appear regularly in the Washington Post, Washington City Paper, and He received his Ph.D. in American History from Rutgers University. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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Table of Contents

Blues for Brother Cruse
What Is Left? An Introduction
Pt. 1 Early Writing
1 Salute to Josephine Baker, Magnificent Negro Artist 3
2 A Negro Looks at Cuba 7
3 Race and Bohemianism in Greenwich Village 21
4 James Baldwin, the Theater and His Critics 27
5 Letter to the Amsterdam News 36
6 Open Letter to Harry Belafonte 43
Pt. 2 From The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (1967)
7 Individualism and the "Open Society" 49
8 Cultural Leadership and Cultural Democracy 57
9 Negroes and Jews - The Two Nationalisms and the Bloc(ked) Plurality 71
Pt. 3 Black Power Era
10 On Explaining 20th Century Negro History 93
11 The Fire This Time?: Eldridge Cleaver: Post-Prison Speeches and Writings 101
12 The Integrationist Ethic as a Basis for Scholarly Endeavors 117
13 The Little Rock National Black Political Convention 125
Pt. 4 From Rebellion or Revolution? (1968)
14 Rebellion or Revolution? I 141
15 Rebellion or Revolution? II 162
16 Marxism and the Negro 172
Pt. 5 Post-Black Power Writings
17 The Racial Origins of American Theater: A Response to Robert Brustein 187
18 The New Negro History of John Hope Franklin - Promise and Progress 199
19 Amilcar Cabral and the Afro-American Reality 211
20 The Pan-African Constituency and the Black Electorate 219
21 Review of the Paul Robeson Controversy 226
Correspondence and Late Essay
22 "Letter to Ralph Story" 238
23 Interludes with Duke Ellington 244
24 Letter to Adolph Reed 250
Pt. 6 From Plural but Equal (1987)
25 Conclusions 257
Pt. 7 Interview with Harold Cruse
26 An Interview with Harold Cruse 281
Index 299
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