Black Intellectuals

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I constructed the above bulletin in the room that I teach in; I wanted to present to my students a list of works and authors that they might or might not know. This is clearly not an exhausted list. And, it represents authors often ignored by teachers. Black scholars have a very important case to represent when it comes to the history of America.

W.E.B DuBois

E. Franklin Frazier

Richard Wright

John Hope Franklin

William Banks

Carter Woodson

Alex Haley

Cornel West

Angela Davis

Harold Cruse

Langston Hughs

James Baldwin

A number of blacks have the job of being a part of the Talented Tenth (short excerpt):

The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education, then, among Negroes must first of all deal with the Talented Tenth; it is the problem of developing the Best of this race that they may guide the Mass away from the contamination and death of the Worst, in their own and other races. Now the training of men is a difficult and intricate task. Its technique is a matter for educational experts, but its object is for the vision of seers. If we make money the object of man-training, we shall develop money-makers but not necessarily men; if we make technical skill the object of education, we may possess artisans but not, in nature, men. Men we shall have only as we make manhood the object of the work of the schools � intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it � this is the curriculum of that Higher Education which must underlie true life. On this foundation we may build bread winning, skill of hand and quickness of brain, with never a fear lest the child and man mistake the means of living for the object of life.

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17 thoughts on “Black Intellectuals

  1. You are right James. And I hate to admit this, but you are indirectly calling me out on my own ideological and political bias. He is an intellectual. Though not at the same level in my opinion, he is much like Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institute. Sowell is one that should be added. Thanks for bringing this up. I will work to correct it.

  2. I think people should read the likes of Sowell and Steele so they are not so easily moved by their arguments, especially when they are read in conjunction with DuBois, West, and some of my favorite writers: Baldwin and Hughes.

    I might pair Steele’s The Content of Our Character with Baldwin’s The Evidence of Things Not Seen, for example.

  3. For a living, black, women, and intellectual (does that hit all catergories… yep that’s pretty much all of the) how about Mae Jemison? Or is she not intellectual enough because she doesn’t have a branch of thinking like Marx, Jefferson or Confucius :)?

  4. Nice point James. She is thought to be one of the 100 greatest. What defines a particular canon is in the eye of the beholder — as you noted; however, I will now give her some mention in my course this year.

  5. Do you only include “intellectuals” that confirm your beliefs? Do yourself a favor. Just try reading all or some of the 30 or so books on history and economics written by Thomas Sowell. Why isn’t he celebrated during black history month? After all, he is arguably the greatest political philosopher of our time. Down with ideology and dogma. Up with careful analysis and empiricism as applied to public decision making. Down with self-satisfaction and smugness! Do you wish to indoctrinate your students or teach them to think for themselves. If the latter, then why the one-sided selection of intellectual heroes. Sowell will still be read when many on your bulletin board are largely forgotten.

  6. A true intellectual should be conservative. Its the liberal bias that pervades modern western thinking that gives this false illusion. Plenty of books are to be read in the conservative tradition, does not have to be from a black author, because truth is truth. I would start off with A”10 books every conservative must read…” by Benjamin Wilker. An education in itself and a source to further that.

    “Tradition is the democracy of the dead” – Chesterton

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