Houston A. Baker Jr. condemns black intellectuals who, he believes, have turned their backs on the tradition of racial activism in America. In their literature, speeches, and academic and public behavior, Baker identifies a "hungry generation" eager for power, respect, and money. Critiquing his own impoverished childhood in the "Little Africa" section of Louisville, Kentucky, Baker seeks to understand the shaping of this new public figure. He also revisits classical sites of African American literary and historical criticism and critique, and devotes chapters to the writing and thought of such black academic superstars as Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, and Henry Louis Gates Jr.; Hoover Institution senior fellow Shelby Steele; Yale law professor Stephen Carter; and Manhattan Institute fellow John McWhorter. Baker's provocative investigation into the disingenuous posturing of these and other individuals exposes what he deems to be a tragic betrayal of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. He urges black intellectuals to reestablish both sacred and secular connections with local communities and rediscover the value of social responsibility. As Baker sees it, the mission of the black intellectual today is not to do great things but to do specific, racially based work that is in the interest of the black majority.
- Publication Date:
- 22 / 01 / 2008