New Yorker Staff Writer and Professor of Journalism at Columbia
Jelani Cobb will be joining the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism this August. He is also a staff writer at the New Yorker, where he has penned a remarkable series of articles about race, the police, and injustice. His articles include "The Anger in Ferguson," "Murders in Charleston," and "What We Talk About When We Talk About Reparations." In awarding him the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism, the jury wrote, "No one has done a better job of placing [the events in Ferugson, MO]—and similar happenings in other places like Sanford, Florida, Cleveland, Ohio and Staten Island, New York—in their broader context than Jelani Cobb." Further: "Cobb met the challenge of describing the turmoil in Ferguson in a way that cut through the frantic chaos of 'breaking news' and deepened readers’ understanding of what they were seeing, hearing, and feeling. Ferguson was not an aberration, he showed, but a microcosm of race relations in the United States—organically connected to the complicated legacy of segregation and the unpaid debts of slavery itself. "
The Half-Life of Freedom: Race and Justice in America Today
This is an up-to-the-moment meditation on the complex dynamics of race in America. Whether discussing Black Lives Matter, Ferguson and Baltimore, the legacy of a black presidency—or, more generally, the history of civil rights, violence, incarceration, housing, and inequality—Cobb speaks with passion and authority. He inspires audiences to work toward a dream of equity—of genuine democracy. He shows us that not only are the levers of justice in our hands, but that we can move them in the direction we see fit. And he reminds us that the only obstacle holding us back is the comforting illusion that we’ve already achieved our goals.
The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress
For acclaimed historian William Jelani Cobb, the historic election of Barack Obama to the presidency is not the most remarkable development of the 2008 election; even more so is the fact that Obama won some 90 percent of the black vote in the primaries across America despite the fact that the established black leadership since the civil rights era—men like Jesse Jackson, John Lewis, Andrew Young, who paved the way for his candidacy—all openly supported Hillary Clinton. Clearly a sea change has occurred among black voters, ironically pushing the architects of the civil rights movement toward the periphery at the moment when their political dreams were most fully realized.
How this has happened, and the powerful implications it holds for America's politics and social landscape, is the focus of The Substance of Hope, a deeply insightful, paradigm-shifting examination of a new generation of voters that has not been shaped by the raw memory of Jim Crow and has a different range of imperatives. Cobb sees Obama's ascendancy as "a reality that has been taking shape in tiny increments for the past four decades," and examines thorny issues such as the paradox and contradictions embodied in race and patriotism, identity and citizenship; how the civil rights leadership became a political machine; why the term "postracial" is as iniquitous as it is inaccurate; and whether our society has really changed with Obama's election.
Elegantly written and powerfully argued, The Substance of Hope challenges conventional wisdom as it offers original insight into America's future.
To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip-Hop Aesthetic
With roots that stretch from West Africa through the black pulpit, hip-hop emerged in the streets of the South Bronx in the 1970s and has spread to the farthest corners of the earth. To the Break of Dawn uniquely examines this freestyle verbal artistry on its own terms. A kid from Queens who spent his youth at the epicenter of this new art form, music critic William Jelani Cobb takes readers inside the beats, the lyrics, and the flow of hip-hop, separating mere corporate rappers from the creative MCs that forged the art in the crucible of the street jam.
The Devil and Dave Chappelle: And Other Essays
An unflinching collection of essays that takes on the subjects of Biggie Smalls, Three 6 Mafia, The King Family, and what it takes to be black at the turn of the twenty-first century.
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