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March 7, 2012

The Future of Black Politics

Harvard Book Store and Boston Review welcome professors MICHAEL DAWSON and WILLIAM JULIUS WILSON and the Reverend EUGENE RIVERS for a discussion on The Future of Black Politics, the subject of Boston Review's January/February 2012 issue.


Michael Dawson's most recent book is Not in Our Lifetimes: The Future of Black Politics. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, polls revealed that only 20 percent of African Americans believed that racial equality for blacks would be achieved in their lifetime. But following the election of Barack Obama, that number leaped to more than half. Did that dramatic shift in opinion really reflect a change in the vitality of black politics—and hope for improvement in the lives of African Americans? Or was it a onetime surge brought on by the euphoria of an extraordinary election?  Dawson shows definitively that it is the latter: for all the talk about a new post-racial America, the fundamental realities of American racism—and the problems facing black political movements—have not changed. Polemical but clear-eyed, passionate but pragmatic, Not in Our Lifetimes will force us to rethink our easy assumptions about racial progress—and begin the hard work of creating real, lasting change.

With More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City, William Julius Wilson explains a groundbreaking new framework for understanding racial inequality, challenging both conservative and liberal dogma. In this timely and provocative contribution to the American discourse on race, William Julius Wilson applies an exciting new analytic framework to three politically fraught social problems: the persistence of the inner-city ghetto, the plight of low-skilled black males, and the fragmentation of the African American family. Though the discussion of racial inequality is typically ideologically polarized. Wilson dares to consider both institutional and cultural factors as causes of the persistence of racial inequality. He reaches the controversial conclusion that while structural and cultural forces are inextricably linked, public policy can only change the racial status quo by reforming the institutions that reinforce it.

About Author(s)

Michael C. Dawson is the John D. MacArthur Professor of Political Science and the College at the University of Chicago and the founding and current Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture at the university. He is the author of Black Visions and Behind the Mule: Race, Class, and African American Politics.

William Julius Wilson is Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University. He is one of only 22 University Professors, the highest professional distinction for a Harvard faculty member. After receiving a Ph.D. from Washington State University in 1966, Wilson taught sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, before joining the University of Chicago faculty in 1972. In 1990 he was appointed the Lucy Flower University Professor and director of the University of Chicago's Center for the Study of Urban Inequality. He joined the faculty at Harvard in July 1996. He is affiliated with the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.