Reflecting Black: African-American Cultural Criticism

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Dyson, who teaches African American studies at Brown University, has collected here an often impressive group of essays and reviews. He argues forcefully for a black criticism that rejects racial essentialism while recognizing the interweaving of cultural and political expression in African American culture. He proposes a quest for a criticism that would celebrate the virtues of black culture without ignoring its failings. Whether writing on Michael Jackson or Michael Jordan, Jesse Jackson or Martin Luther King, he offers a balanced vision that explicates the strengths of his subjects while it excoriates their theoretical lapses, whether sexism or a narrowly reductionist reading of racial politics. The final third of the book, focusing on the role of religion in black culture, features the strongest material, including an incisive analysis of the heroic stature of Dr. King. On the other hand, too many of the book's shorter ``occasional'' pieces seem included more as filler than as contributions to the theoretical or practical grounding of Dyson's work. However, when he draws on personal experience to convey the impact of racism--as when he recalls a humiliating incident at a bank in Princeton, N.J.--he is a powerful writer indeed. (May)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816621439
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/1993
  • Series: American Culture Series
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction. Beyond Essentialism: Expanding African-American Cultural Criticism
1 The Culture of Hip-Hop 3
2 Rap Music and Black Culture: An Interview 16
3 Spike Lee's Neonationalist Vision 23
Improvisation. On African-American Oral Culture 31
4 Michael Jackson's Postmodern Spirituality 35
Improvisation. Luther Vandross, Anita Baker, and the State of Soul 60
5 Be Like Mike?: Michael Jordan and The Pedagogy of Desire 64
Improvisation. The Media and American Culture 75
6 Bill Cosby and the Politics of Race
Improvisation. Gordon Parks: Prometheus in Motion 88
7 Between Apocalypse and Redemption: John Singleton's Boyz N the Hood 90
Improvisation. On the Mo' Money Soundtrack 110
8 Probing a Divided Metaphor: Malcolm X and His Readers 115
Improvisation. On Contemporary Black Nationalism: A Response to Gary Peller 129
9 The Liberal Theory of Race 132
Improvisation. The Two Racisms 143
10 Racism and Race Theory in the Nineties 146
Improvisation. Affirmative Action and the Courts 154
11 Leonard Jeffries and the Struggle for the Black Mind 157
Improvisation. Columbus Redux: An African-American Perspective 163
12 Sex, Race, and Class: Two Cases 167
Improvisation. Toni Morrison's Vision 179
13 The Plight of Black Men 182
Improvisation. Remembering Emmett Till 194
14 Black Grass-Roots Leaders 199
Improvisation. The Invisible Lives of Working-Class Black Men 206
15 Reflections on the 1988 Presidential Campaign 210
Improvisation. Looking Back on the Eighties 216
16 Mixed Blessings: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Lessons of an Ambiguous Heroism 221
Improvisation. Martin's Death, and Ours? 246
17 Martin and Malcolm 250
Improvisation. King: A Metaphor for the Sixties 264
18 For Jonathan's Sake: The Morality of Memory - a Sermon 267
Improvisation. James Forbes and Riverside Church 274
19 Rap Culture, the Church, and American Society 276
Improvisation. Cornel West's Prophetic Criticism 281
20 "God Almighty Has Spoken from Washington, D.C.": American Society and Christian Faith 286
Improvisation. Political Correctness and the Seminary 319
21 The Promise and Perils of Contemporary Gospel Music 322
Improvisation. A Skeptic's View of Southern Baptists 327
Index 331
Permissions 345
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