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Yes We Did?

From King's Dream to Obama's Promise

Cynthia Fleming

Publication Year: 2009

Barack Obama’s presidential victory demonstrated unprecedented racial progress on a national level. Not since the civil rights legislation of the 1960s has the United States seen such remarkable advances. During Obama’s historic campaign, however, prominent African Americans voiced concern about his candidacy, demonstrating a divided agenda among black political leaders. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. changed perceptions about the nature of African American leadership. In Yes We Did?, Cynthia Fleming examines the expansion of black leadership from grassroots to the national arena, beginning with Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois and progressing through contemporary leaders including Harold Ford Jr., Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson Jr., and Barack Obama. She emphasizes socioeconomic status, female black leadership, media influence, black conservatism, and generational conflict. Fleming had unprecedented access to a wide range of activists, including Carol Mosley Braun, Al Sharpton, and John Hope Franklin. She deftly maps the history of black leadership in America, illuminating both lingering disadvantages and obstacles that developed after the civil rights movement. Among those interviewed were community activists and scholars, as well as former freedom riders, sit-in activists, and others who were intimately involved in the civil rights struggle and close to Dr. King. Their personal accounts reflect the diverse viewpoints of the black community and offer a new understanding of the history of African American leadership, its current status, and its uncertain future.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Front cover

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Copyright

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pp. vi-

Contents

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pp. ix-

Participants

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pp. xi-xv

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Foreword

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pp. xvii-xix

Cynthia Griggs Fleming’s book responds to a need felt by many people today to understand how the previous half-century of civil rights activity transformed the status of African Americans and led to the election of the first African American president. The election of Barack Obama requires a reevaluation of racial progress—an understanding of how ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xxi-

As I worked on this study, there were many people who helped me a great deal, but I would like to begin by thanking all the African American leaders who took time from their busy schedules to grant me an interview. Without their unique perspectives, the book could not have been written. One of those leaders, Lawrence Guyot, was especially helpful in...

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Prologue

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pp. 1-6

Nearly 250,000 people are gathered on the mall in front of the Lincoln memorial. The mood of the crowd is buoyant. Even the blazing sun beating down on the tops of their heads cannot dampen their high spirits. They have come from everywhere; they represent labor unions and churches, schools and community groups. They are black and white, ...

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1. Yes We Can

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pp. 7-21

In late summer 2004, Barack Obama was a young black Illinois politician and the Democratic standard-bearer for a seat in the U.S. Senate. After a sordid scandal forced his Republican opponent to drop out of the race, Obama’s victory in November seemed all but certain, and he was poised to make history by becoming only the third African American ...

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2. Black Leadership in Historical Perspective

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pp. 23-48

In 1895, when Booker T. Washington delivered his famous Atlanta Compromise address at the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition, he was a young black educator from Alabama, not very well known. But Washington’s speech contained a poignant plea that gained the attention of his largely white and southern audience. Speaking of black people, he declared: “As ...

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3. After King, Where Do We Go from Here?

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pp. 49-68

By the end of the 1960s, new black leadership models had emerged, accompanied by broader options and soaring expectations. Of course, the African American leader whose life and work was the most potent symbol of this new black leadership era was murdered just as the new era was beginning. That awful event traumatized the nation in general and ...

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4. The Media and the Message

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pp. 69-95

In the grim days following Dr. King’s death, Rev. Ralph Abernathy was full of grief and full of insecurity about trying to fill a martyr’s shoes. One New York Times reporter observed, “The Rev. Ralph David Abernathy did not look like a leader at that moment. Numb from lack of sleep, jowls unshaven, he spoke haltingly as some staff members gathered around to ...

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5. From Protest to Inclusion (includes pictures)

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pp. 97-122

These days, as African Americans savor the election of the first black president, they dream about the potential for change that comes with an Obama presidency. Many older African Americans want to pinch themselves to make sure they are not dreaming: they never thought they would live to see this day. Over four decades ago, African Americans were thrilled ...

Photo insert

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pp. 123-136

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6. The Continuing Challenge of Black Economic Underdevelopment

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pp. 137-161

As African American leaders focused on the cultivation of black political power in the years after the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, they also declared that their new political power would mean little without black economic equality. Some four decades later, the vast majority of African American leaders in the new millennium say the same thing....

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7. Black Culture Then and Now

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pp. 163-187

Young African Americans in their hoopties are just the latest link in the long chain of black cultural expression stretching all the way back to the first Africans in America. The celebration of shared black cultural values has always been one of the most potent weapons in the black arsenal of resistance to white oppression. Historian V. P. Franklin explains the basis ...

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8. Black Community and Black Identity

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pp. 189-205

Young African Americans in their hoopties are just the latest link in the long chain of black cultural expression stretching all the way back to the first Africans in America. The celebration of shared black cultural values has always been one of the most potent weapons in the black arsenal of resistance to white oppression. Historian V. P. Franklin...

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9. A Crisis of Victory

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pp. 207-225

As black leaders face an uncertain future in a society undergoing profound technological, economic, and cultural changes, many are worried about the condition of African Americans in the years ahead, and they wonder what kind of agenda to pursue. Just over forty years ago, as the civil rights movement drew to a close, and as Dr. martin Luther King Jr. ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 227-242

America is fighting two wars on the other side of the world, where military forces battle the tenacious Iraqi insurgency and determined Taliban guerillas. Improvised explosive devices lurk on the side of the road. Long periods of boredom punctuated by short bursts of anxiety and danger are the constant companions of the brave young Americans who proudly ...

Notes

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pp. 243-259

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Bibliographic Essay

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pp. 261-264

Because the literature on the subject of African American leadership in American society is voluminous, I include here only some of the more significant works. Deliberately omitted are the many biographies and autobiographies of specific African American leaders, in order to keep this essay of manageable length. In addition, because black leadership is complex and multifaceted, the literature on ...

Index

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pp. 265-281


E-ISBN-13: 9780813173542
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813125602

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2009