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Race in the Age of Obama

New American Academy Volume Examines Race Relations


Press Release

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – How have race relations in America evolved since the civil rights movement of the 1960’s? Was the election of President Barack Obama a milestone in this regard? Did it truly serve as a turning point in America’s history of racial inequality?

In the newly released issue of Daedalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, guest editor Gerald Early and 14 leading humanists examine “Race in the Age of Obama.” Through the lens of literature, politics and popular culture, their essays consider both recent progress and setbacks in American race relations.

Early, the Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters and Director of the Center for the Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis, suggests that the national conversation about race today is as significant as it was in the 1960s, “when America seemed on the edge of a brave new world, poised for redefinition and ready to see itself anew.” The election of Barack Obama “possessed the promise of bringing together what the late historian John Hope Franklin called ‘the two worlds of race,’” writes Early.

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson described the “task” of civil rights as giving African Americans “the same choice as every other American to learn and work and share in society.” This volume marks the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement and the Academy’s project on “The Negro American,” a groundbreaking examination of the complexities and implications of mid-20th-century racial liberalism in the United States.

“This volume enriches the dialogue and sharpens our understanding of the meaning of racial majority and minority as political, social, and cultural terms,” said Leslie C. Berlowitz, President of the Academy.

In April, the Academy will publish a companion issue to “Race in the Age of Obama.” The second volume, “Race, Inequality & Culture,” is guest edited by Harvard University sociologist Lawrence Bobo and features essays by 22 prominent social scientists.

Essays in the first volume include:
  • “The Two Worlds of Race Revisited: A Meditation on Race in the Age of Obama” by Gerald Early
  • “Freedom, Equality, Race” by Jeffrey B. Ferguson, Amherst College
  • “Racial Liberalism, the Moynihan Report & the Daedalus Project on ‘The Negro American’” by Daniel Geary, Trinity College Dublin
  • “Precious African American Memories, Post-Racial Dreams & the American Nation” by Waldo Martin, University of California, Berkeley
  • “Race & Inheritance in Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father” by Glenda R. Carpio, Harvard University
  • “On Post-Racial America in the Age of Obama” by Amina Gautier, DePaul University
  • “Justice & Racial Conciliation: Two Visions” by Tommie Shelby, Harvard University
  • “Race & the Tea Party” by Clarence Walker, University of California, Davis
  • “At Last . . . ?: Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, Race & History” by Farah Jasmine Griffin, Columbia University
  • “Obligations to Negroes who would be kin if they were not Negro” by Werner Sollors, Harvard University
  • “Poetry in a New Race Era” by Korina Jocson, Assistant Professor of Education, Washington University in St. Louis
  • “We dreamed a dream: Ralph Ellison, Martin Luther King, Jr. & Barack Obama” by Eric J. Sundquist, Johns Hopkins University
  • “Seeing Jay-Z in Taipei” by Hua Hsu, Vassar College
  • “The Concept of Post-Racial: How Its Easy Dismissal Obscures Important Questions” by David A. Hollinger, University of California, Berkeley
  • “Pursuit of the Pneuma” by James Alan McPherson, University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop

The volume also reprints John Hope Franklin’s essay “The Two Worlds of Race: A Historical View,” which originally appeared in Dædalus in Fall 1965 To order a copy of these volumes or to subscribe to Dædalus visit:

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences ( is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. Current Academy research focuses on science and technology policy; global security; social policy; the humanities and culture; and education. With headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Academy’s work is advanced by its 4,600 elected members, who are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs from around the world.


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