News Release: People, Politics, Research

Jan. 6,  2010

Defining Post-Civil Rights Black Politics Focus of New Book

Andra Gillespie discusses racism and the possibility of a post-racial society in America today.

audio file Listen to Gillespie talk about black political leaders (mp3)


The era of post-Civil Rights Black politics didn't start with Barack Obama, and they won't end with the 44th president. That's the message of  "Whose Black Politics? Cases in Post-Racial Black Leadership," a new compilation of groundbreaking scholarship from Emory University political scientist Andra Gillespie.

In the book, just published by Routledge Press, contributors explore the contemporary cohort of black political leaders who came of age after the Civil Rights era who have been defined through the election of President Obama. While race may tie them together, the case studies from scholars around the country reveal philosophical and practical differences in how they view the world - and the importance of their own racial identity.

"If there was a motto for the book it would be: Black politics is bigger than Barack Obama. It's important to acknowledge the trailblazing of the early cohort of African American politicians and give voice to the diversity that persists in African American politics, even amongst this new wave of black politicians," Gillespie says.

To explore these issues, "Whose Black Politics" presents for the first time a series of in-depth analyses of 10 leading young black politicians, including, among others, Newark, N.J.'s Cory Booker, Civil Rights legacy Jesse Jackson, Jr., Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Tennessee's Harold Ford, and a look at the rise and fall of former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Gillespie establishes a road map for defining new leaders in African American politics based on black leaders' crossover appeal, their political ambition and connections to the black establishment. The collection also explores what's missing with an examination of the underrepresentation of young black women in this new generation of politicians.  

Gillespie defines the post-racial cohort as those born after 1960, give or take five years, who didn't experience the Civil Rights movement first-hand nor the codified racism of Jim Crow laws. They also benefitted from the gains of the Civil Rights movement with opportunities for education and integration not experienced by previous generations of African Americans.

 "Their attitudes toward race are going to be very, very different. It's not going to be shaped through the crucible of struggle and through the crucible of protest," Gillespie says. "They are however, sympathetic to the struggle and history of their people and that could actually have an impact on how they approach politics, and what policies they espouse and how they reach out to other people and create the partnerships to address the problems in African American communities."

At the same time, "they are more likely to embrace deracialized campaign and governance strategies," she says. "Members of this new cohort have often publicly clashed with their elders, either in campaigns or over points of policy. And because this generation did not experience codified racism, critics question whether these leaders will even serve the interests of African Americans once in office."

Originally posted Dec. 23, 2009

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