Joseph (History/Tufts Univ.; Waiting 'til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America, 2006, etc.) grounds Barack Obama's ascendancy in the historic strides of Black Power leaders like Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X. Some have argued that Obama's election marked "the end of black politics" in America, underscoring the obsolescence of the civil-rights struggle and the bankruptcy of the radical Black Power platform of the '60s and '70s. Yet Joseph demonstrates the enduring relevance of these early pioneers, including Paul Robeson, Lorraine Hansberry, Robert Williams, Gloria Richardson and William Worthy. Obama's early grassroots efforts as a community organizer in Chicago owe enormous debt to these early black militants. Joseph revisits the era, starting from the "freedom surge" before World War II, when African Americans migrated to urban centers like Harlem in massive numbers and significant political organizations like the NAACP were formed. Although the civil-rights and Black Power movements are usually treated separately, they are, Joseph writes, two branches of "the same historical family tree." The struggles against the Jim Crow laws galvanized both branches, bolstered by Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, with the South led by the "quiet dignity" of Martin Luther King and the Northern activists taking cues from his more radical counterpart, Malcolm X. Carmichael moved from civil-rights agitator to Black Power revolutionary, proving to be "perhaps the most important individual key to unearthing the buried intimacies between the civil rights and Black Power eras. Joseph studies Obama's writings and speeches, showing that despite his "typically understatedeloquence," the president's message of an American democracy transformed is no less radical. A palatable history for our times. Agent: Gloria Loomis/Watkins Loomis Agency
John Stauffer, Chair, History of American Civilization at Harvard and the author of Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln and The Black Hearts of Men
“Peniel Joseph, the preeminent scholar of African American culture in the postwar period, shows us in Dark Days, Bright Nights how and why Black Power transformed American culture and made possible the election of Barack Obama. Brilliantly conceived and elegantly written, it highlights the possibilities and limits of remaking society and achieving democracy. It thus is a vital, necessary book, one that every American should read.”
Manning Marable, M. Moran Weston and Black Alumni Council Professor of African-American Studies at Columbia University
“Peniel Joseph’s Dark Days, Bright Nights explores the contours of black leadership and politics over the past half century as it examines the strengths and contradictions of black activism and black power. Joseph’s insights and deep knowledge of modern Black Nationalism provide powerful new perspectives on recent African-American History. Dark Days, Bright Nights represents contemporary history at its best.