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In a groundbreaking collaboration, and taking the great W.E.B. DuBois as their model, two of America's foremost African-American intellectuals address the dreams, fears, aspirations, and responsibilities of the black community--especially the black elite--on the eve of the 21st century.
In a 1903 essay, DuBois outlined what he saw as the responsibility of the most fortunate, gifted, and successful minds in the black community to "uplift the race." Over 90 years later, Gates (Colored People, 1994, etc.) and West (Race Matters, 1993, etc.) are perhaps the embodiment of that exalted group. In the two essays that make up the bulk of this slender but important volume (which also includes DuBois's original essay), they examine that sense of responsibility in light of the past half-century of rapid change. Gates points out that the growing African-American middle class has become more uncoupled than ever from its impoverished inner-city kin. Gates writes elegantly of the sense of guilt that intellectuals carry in the face of this social phenomenon: "If your name is Auchincloss, say, you do not worry overmuch about those impoverished Appalachians who share your Scottish descent; few blacks have the luxury of such detachment." West, by contrast, confronts the ghost of DuBois head-on, finding the concept of the Talented Tenth "inadequate," a naive faith in the power of education to transform the polity. Where this will lead is impossible for either writer to say, but Gates is on the money when he writes, "We need something we don't yet have: a way of speaking about black poverty that doesn't falsify the reality of black advancement; a way of speaking about black advancement that doesn't distort the enduring realities of black poverty."
Thoughtful and, particularly in the Gates essay, deeply felt. A useful introduction to important contemporary thinkers and the question that has plagued African-American intellectuals for over 200 years.
|Parable of the Talents||1|
|Black Strivings in a Twilight Civilization||53|
|Appendix: W. E. B. Du Bois and "The Talented Tenth"||115|
|Appendix: "The Talented Tenth," W. E. B. Du Bois, 1903||133|
|Appendix: "The Talented Tenth Memorial Address," W. E. B. Du Bois, 1948||159|
Posted December 28, 2004
Future of the Race by Professors Gates and West is one the most accessible yet intellectual pieces that I have read in recent memory. One of the things that I liked about this book is the fact that the authors both celebrate the works of prototypical African American scholars such as W.E.B. Dubois while also providing us with a useful critique of their work. One of the most fascinating criticism is that of Dubois who for all of his scholarly rigor never came to grips with the reality of the problem of evil. I think that anyone trying to understand race relations in the United States should read this book along with a few classics such as those of Dubois and Carter G Woodson.
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Posted January 6, 2012
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