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Read e-book online African American Political Thought and American Culture: The PDF

By Alex Zamalin

In African American Political proposal and American Culture, Alex Zamalin argues that African American writers James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and Toni Morrison extend the bounds of yank political concept and perform. those 3 writers uniquely reimagined center American beliefs resembling freedom, democratic dedication, and generosity, demonstrating that the perform of those values in daily life, along the enactment of public regulations and laws, is vital for attaining racial justice. via a traditionally and politically grounded interpreting in their paintings, Zamalin demonstrates that getting to those insights illuminates a formerly unrecognized point of 20th century African American political concept and highbrow lifestyles, and divulges a robust and energizing resource within the modern fight for racial equality.

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Additional info for African American Political Thought and American Culture: The Nation’s Struggle for Racial Justice

Sample text

Freedom was not alive in ways American patriots believed. 7 Equally puzzling was his belief that freedom was something private and existential. ”8 Emphasizing freedom rather than liberty meant eschewing the debate about its political manifestations. 9 He also refused to follow the modern tradition of natural rights thinking, which believed freedom was synonymous with birth. At the same time, he did not think freedom was synonymous with willpower or something that simply needed to be protected or facilitated by the state.

No matter how affecting, Baldwin never offered anything other than speculations about people’s lives. But in some sense, history writing was not his objective; counter-memory was. A better analogue would be Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind (1936), or the American national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” both of which assert but do not prove Americans’ ingrained patriotism, sense of adventure, valor or optimism. 60 Baldwin always sought to highlight something else that could help explain slavery and racism but was irreducible to it—everyday, emotional realities and motivations.

One reason for this is that Baldwin’s idea of freedom was almost always philosophically undeveloped; the term was usually couched in unsystematic fragments and asides, replete with dense, textured language and evocative metaphors. If anything, he said more about what freedom wasn’t rather than what it was. 16 Another reason might be that for Baldwin freedom was, too often, associated with divestment: refusing to do something. Indeed, Jack Turner rightly sees Baldwin’s conception of freedom as partly associated with divestment.

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