The Last of the Black Emperors: The Hollow Comeback of Marion Barry in a New Age of Black Leaders

The Last of the Black Emperors: The Hollow Comeback of Marion Barry in a New Age of Black Leaders

by Jonetta Rose Barras
     
 

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The 1990 FBI videotape of Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry smoking crack transfixed television viewers nationwide. Shouting now-notorious obscenities at the woman who helped agents trap him, Barry was publicly disgraced, his personal and political life apparently wrecked. But in 1994, following his release from federal prison, Barry was elected once more to serve

Overview

The 1990 FBI videotape of Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry smoking crack transfixed television viewers nationwide. Shouting now-notorious obscenities at the woman who helped agents trap him, Barry was publicly disgraced, his personal and political life apparently wrecked. But in 1994, following his release from federal prison, Barry was elected once more to serve as mayor of the nation’s capital.

How did Barry pull off his political resurrection? Why are African-Americans so enamored of him? And why, despite his return to power, has Barry’s story so dramatically lost promise?

In The Last of the Black Emperors, author Jonetta Rose Barras explains the many paradoxes of Marion Barry’s career, and documents the growth of his racial and political identities parallel with those of his largely black constituency. Barras places the D.C. mayor in context, comparing him with politicians—black and non-black—of his generation, and with “the new black leaders” who have rendered his style obsolete. Focusing on the period from Barry’s 1992 prison release, through his 1994 mayoral victory, and the subsequent erosion of his influence in the nation’s capital, Barras’s study traces the uneven trajectory of a wily, controversial, but captivating personality.

Barras also offers glimpses of young Barry—his childhood in the south under Jim Crow, his early political life in the civil rights movement and SNCC, and his forsaking activism for the pursuit of elected office. The Last of the Black Emperors shows us Barry as an embodiment of Anansi the Spider, a “trickster” figure from African folklore who is both victim and victor, and resounds in the psyche of black America to this day.

Editorial Reviews

Ralph Collier, Host of the Nationally Syndicated Radio Program, I Hear America Talking
The Last of the Black Emperors is wonderful, fascinating, colorful, exciting, honest, and stylishly written. An eye-opener for America that everybody will be talking about this summer.
Publishers Weekly
A hard-hitting assessment and a tough-minded profile that is not entirely negative.
Arthur J. Magida, Author of Prophet of Rage: A Life of Louis Farrakhan and His Nation
Marion Barry has done his stubborn best to clothe himself in a hopefully impenetrable cloak of insufferable hubris and racial pride. With clarity, passion, and often outright dismay, Jonetta Rose Barras unravels Barry’s cloak—and shows that this particular emperor is about as naked as naked gets.
Max Rodriguez, Publisher, The Quarterly Review of Books
A deeply rewarding book. Ms. Barras is lucid both in her writing and her reportage. She deftly places Mayor Barry as the last beneficiary of a bygone era in black politics. All said and done, Marion Barry has been read his political obituary.
Library Journal
With keen insight, Barras takes us inside the corridors of DC politics, walking us through the maze of scandals, deal-making, and corrupt government officials. A well-researched analysis; highly recommended for political science collections.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940014404679
Publisher:
Bancroft Press
Publication date:
06/25/1998
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
332
File size:
1000 KB

Meet the Author

Jonetta Rose Barras is a columnist and former reporter for the Washington Times, a former associate editor of the Washington City Paper and a frequent contributor to the New Republic, The Washington Post and American Enterprise Magazine.

A respected authority on black politics, Barras has provided commentary for NPR's All Things Considered, CNN and C-Span. She is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, and is also a published poet.

Barras resides in Washington, D.C.

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