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About Cornel West
Cornel West is a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and obtained his MA and PhD in philosophy at Princeton. He has taught at Union Theological Seminary (where he has recently returned to teach), Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and the University of Paris. He has written nineteen books and edited thirteen books. He is best known for his classic Race Matters, published by Beacon Press in 1993. His latest books are Black Prophetic Fire, which offers a fresh perspective on six revolutionary African American leaders (Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker, Malcolm X, and Ida B. Wells) and The Radical King, a collection of MLK’s writings curated and introduced by Prof. West to reclaim Dr. King’s prophetic and radical vision as both a civil rights leader and—more broadly—as a human right activist. Both books were published by Beacon Press.
Cornel West appears frequently on Real Time with Bill Maher, The Colbert Report, CNN and C-SPAN, and he makes numerous appearances speaking to audiences large and small on subjects ranging from racial justice and queer rights to climate justice. Prof. West has appeared in over twenty-five documentaries and films, including Examined Life, Call & Response, Sidewalk, and Stand. He has also made three spoken-word albums, including Never Forget, collaborating with Prince, Jill Scott, Andre 3000, Talib Kweli, KRS-One, and the late Gerald Levert. His recent spoken-word interludes were featured on Terence Blanchard’s Choices (which won the Grand Prix in France for the best jazz album of the year for 2009).
He has recently been deeply involved in the Black Lives Matter protests and was among those arrested in Ferguson in 2015. Cornel West has a passion to communicate in writings and orations, through music and film, and in solidarity with groups and faith communities committed to justice in order to keep alive the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.—a legacy of telling the truth and bearing witness to love and justice.
Photo credit Sigrid Estrada.
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“The radical King was a democratic socialist who sided with poor and working people in the class struggle taking place in capitalist societies. . . . The response of the radical King to our catastrophic moment can be put in one word: revolution—a revolution in our priorities, a reevaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life, and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living that promotes a transfer of power from oligarchs and plutocrats to everyday people and ordinary citizens. . . . Could it be that we know so little of the radical King because such courage defies our market-driven world?” —Cornel West, from the Introduction
Every year, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is celebrated as one of the greatest orators in US history, an ambassador for nonviolence who became perhaps the most recognizable leader of the civil rights movement. But after more than forty years, few people appreciate how truly radical he was.
Arranged thematically in four parts, The Radical King includes twenty-three selections, curated and introduced by Dr. Cornel West, that illustrate King’s revolutionary vision, underscoring his identification with the poor, his unapologetic opposition to the Vietnam War, and his crusade against global imperialism. As West writes, “Although much of America did not know the radical King—and too few know today—the FBI and US government did. They called him ‘the most dangerous man in America.’ . . . This book unearths a radical King that we can no longer sanitize.”
Activist and scholar Angela Y. Davis has been a tireless fighter against oppression for decades. Now, the iconic author of Women, Race, and Class offers her latest insights into the struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history and around the world.
Reflecting on the importance of black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism, Davis discusses the legacies of previous liberation struggles, from the Black Freedom Movement to the South African anti-Apartheid movement. She highlights connections and analyzes today’s struggles against state terror, from Ferguson to Palestine.
Facing a world of outrageous injustice, Davis challenges us to imagine and build a movement for human liberation. And in doing so, she reminds us that “freedom is a constant struggle.”
This edition of Freedom Is a Constant Struggle includes a foreword by Dr. Cornel West and an introduction by Frank Barat.
First published in 1993, on the one-year anniversary of the Los Angeles riots, Race Matters became a national best seller that has gone on to sell more than half a million copies. This classic treatise on race contains Dr. West’s most incisive essays on the issues relevant to black Americans, including the crisis in leadership in the Black community, Black conservatism, Black-Jewish relations, myths about Black sexuality, and the legacy of Malcolm X. The insights Dr. West brings to these complex problems remain relevant, provocative, creative, and compassionate.
In a new introduction for the twenty-fifth-anniversary edition, Dr. West argues that we are in the midst of a spiritual blackout characterized by imperial decline, racial animosity, and unchecked brutality and terror as seen in Baltimore, Ferguson, and Charlottesville. Calling for a moral and spiritual awakening, Dr. West finds hope in the collective and visionary resistance exemplified by the Movement for Black Lives, Standing Rock, and the Black freedom tradition.
Now more than ever, Race Matters is an essential book for all Americans, helping us to build a genuine multiracial democracy in the new millennium.
West reveals himself as a thinker of dazzling erudition, whose critiques are inevitably balanced by an infectious optimism and magnanimity of spirit.” —The Village Voice
In his major bestseller, Race Matters, philosopher Cornel West burst onto the national scene with his searing analysis of the scars of racism in American democracy. Race Matters has become a contemporary classic, still in print after ten years, having sold more than four hundred thousand copies. A mesmerizing speaker with a host of fervidly devoted fans, West gives as many as one hundred public lectures a year and appears regularly on radio and television. Praised by The New York Times for his "ferocious moral vision" and hailed by Newsweek as "an elegant prophet with attitude," he bridges the gap between black and white opinion about the country's problems.
In Democracy Matters, West returns to the analysis of the arrested development of democracy-both in America and in the crisis-ridden Middle East. In a strikingly original diagnosis, he argues that if America is to become a better steward of democratization around the world, we must first wake up to the long history of imperialist corruption that has plagued our own democracy. Both our failure to foster peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the crisis of Islamist anti-Americanism stem largely from hypocrisies in our dealings with the world. Racism and imperial expansionism have gone hand in hand in our country's inexorable drive toward hegemony, and our current militarism is only the latest expression of that drive. Even as we are shocked by Islamic fundamentalism, our own brand of fundamentalism, which West dubs Constantinian Christianity, has joined forces with imperialist corporate and political elites in an unholy alliance, and four decades after the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., insidious racism still inflicts debilitating psychic pain on so many of our citizens.
But there is a deep democratic tradition in America of impassioned commitment to the fight against imperialist corruptions-the last great expression of which was the civil rights movement led by Dr. King-and West brings forth the powerful voices of that great democratizing tradition in a brilliant and deeply moving call for the revival of our better democratic nature. His impassioned and provocative argument for the revitalization of America's democracy will reshape the terms of the raging national debate about America's role in today's troubled world.
Yet, as he points out in this new memoir, "I’ve never taken the time to focus on the inner dynamics of the dark precincts of my soul." That is, until now. Brother West is like its author: brilliant, unapologetic, full of passion, yet cool. This poignant memoir traces West’s transformation from a schoolyard Robin Hood into a progressive cultural icon.
From his youthful investigation of the "death shudder" to why he embraced his calling of teaching over preaching, from his three marriages and his two precious children to his near-fatal bout with prostate cancer, West illuminates what it means to live as "an aspiring bluesman in a world of ideas and a jazzman in the life of the mind."
Woven together with the fibers of his lifelong commitment to the prophetic Christian tradition that began in Sacramento’s Shiloh Baptist Church, Brother West is a tale of a man courageous enough to be fully human, living and loving out loud.
In an accessible, conversational format, Cornel West, with distinguished scholar Christa Buschendorf, provides a fresh perspective on six revolutionary African American leaders: Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker, Malcolm X, and Ida B. Wells. In dialogue with Buschendorf, West examines the impact of these men and women on their own eras and across the decades. He not only rediscovers the integrity and commitment within these passionate advocates but also their fault lines.
West, in these illuminating conversations with the German scholar and thinker Christa Buschendorf, describes Douglass as a complex man who is both “the towering Black freedom fighter of the nineteenth century” and a product of his time who lost sight of the fight for civil rights after the emancipation. He calls Du Bois “undeniably the most important Black intellectual of the twentieth century” and explores the more radical aspects of his thinking in order to understand his uncompromising critique of the United States, which has been omitted from the American collective memory. West argues that our selective memory has sanitized and even “Santaclausified” Martin Luther King Jr., rendering him less radical, and has marginalized Ella Baker, who embodies the grassroots organizing of the civil rights movement. The controversial Malcolm X, who is often seen as a proponent of reverse racism, hatred, and violence, has been demonized in a false opposition with King, while the appeal of his rhetoric and sincerity to students has been sidelined. Ida B. Wells, West argues, shares Malcolm X’s radical spirit and fearless speech, but has “often become the victim of public amnesia.”
By providing new insights that humanize all of these well-known figures, in the engrossing dialogue with Buschendorf, and in his insightful introduction and powerful closing essay, Cornel West takes an important step in rekindling the Black prophetic fire so essential in the age of Obama.
Profound meditations on life, death, freedom, family, and faith, written by radical Black journalist, Mumia Abu-Jamal, while he was awaiting his execution.
During the spring of 1996, black journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal was living on death row and expecting to be executed for a crime he steadfastly maintained he did not commit—the murder of a white Philadelphia police officer. It was in that period, with the likelihood of execution looming over him, that he received visits from members of the Bruderhof spiritual community—refugees from Hitler's Germany—anti-fascist, anti-racist, and deeply opposed to the death penalty. Inspired by the encounters, Mumia hand-wrote Death Blossoms—a series of short essays and personal vignettes reflecting on his search for spiritual meaning, freedom, and truth in a deeply racist and materialistic society.
Featuring a new introduction by Mumia and a report by Amnesty International detailing how his trial was "in violation of minimum international standards," this new edition of Death Blossoms is essential reading for the Black Lives Matter era, and is destined to endure as a classic in American prison literature.
Praise for Death Blossoms, Expanded Edition:
"For years in my classrooms I have watched Death Blossoms do its luminous work. It has awakened the conscience of so many of my student readers. … From streets to classrooms and back, Death Blossoms keeps opening up consciences, hearts, and minds for our revolutionary work."—Mark Lewis Taylor, Professor of Theology and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary, and author of The Theological and the Political: On the Weight of the World
"Targeted by the FBI's COINTELPRO for his revolutionary politics, imprisoned, and sentenced to death, Mumia found freedom in resistance. His reflections here—on race, spirituality, on struggle, and life—illuminate this path to freedom for us all."—Joshua Bloom, co-author with Waldo E. Martin Jr. of Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party
"In this revised edition of his groundbreaking work, Death Blossoms, convicted death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal tackles hard and existential questions, searching for God and a greater meaning in a caged life that may be cut short if the state has its way and takes his life. … If there is any justice, Mumia will prevail in his battle for his life and for his freedom."—Lara Bazelon, author of Rectify: The Power of Restorative Justice After Wrongful Conviction
"Mumia Abu-Jamal has challenged us to see the prison at the center of a long history of US oppression, and he has inspired us to keep faith with ordinary struggles against injustice under the most terrible odds and circumstances. Written more than two decades ago, Death Blossoms helps us to see beyond prison walls; it is as timely and as necessary as the day it was published."—Nikhil Pal Singh, founding faculty director of the NYU Prison Education Program, author of Race and America's Long War
"For over three decades, the words of Mumia Abu-Jamal have been tools many young activists have used to connect the dots of empire, racism, and resistance.
In this, his premiere work, Cornel West provides readers with a new understanding of the African American experience based largely on his own political and cultural perspectives borne out of his own life's experiences. He challenges African Americans to consider the incorporation of Marxism into their theological perspectives, thereby adopting the mindset that it is class more so than race that renders one powerless in America. Armed with a new introduction by the author, this Twentieth Anniversary Edition of Prophesy Deliverance! is a must have.
Esteemed American philosopher, Cornel West tackles the ethics of the Marxism agenda
In this fresh, original analysis of Marxist thought, Cornel West makes a significant contribution to today's debates about the relevance of Marxism by putting the issue of ethics squarely on the Marxist agenda. West, professor of religion and director of the Afro-American studies program at Princeton University, shows that not only was ethics an integral part of the development of Marx's own thinking throughout his career, but that this crucial concern has been obscured by such leading and influential interpreters as Engels, Kautsky, Luk?cs, and others who diverted Marx's theory into narrow forms of positivism, economism, and Hegelianism.
A decade before the Seneca Falls Convention, black and white women joined together at the 1837 Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women in the first instance of political organizing by American women for American women. Incited by “holy indignation,” these pioneers believed it was their God-given duty to challenge both slavery and patriarchy. Although the convention was largely written out of history for its religious and interracial character, these women created a blueprint for an intersectional feminism that was centuries ahead of its time.
Part historical investigation, part personal memoir, Hunt traces how her research into nineteenth-century organizing led her to become one of the most significant philanthropists in modern history. Her journey to confront her position of power meant taking control of an oil fortune that was being deployed on her behalf but without her knowledge, and acknowledging the feminist faith animating her life’s work.