The Substance of Hope by William Jelani Cobb
Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress

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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.

About William Jelani Cobb

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Wiliam Jelani Cobb, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of History at Spelman College in Atlanta. He specializes in post-Civil War African American history, 20th century American politics and the history of the Cold War. He is a contributing writer for Essence magazine, and his essays and reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, The Progressive,, and other publications. He has been a featured commentator on National Public Radio, the acclaimed documentary Beyond Beats & Rhymes, CNN, and a number of other national broadcast outlets. He is the author of To The Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic and The Devil & Dave Chappelle and Other Essays, and has edited and contributed to several other books. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Published June 2, 2010 by Walker Books. 204 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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They knew an Obama presidency would not end racism, but would at least “represent a fundamental change in the way this society understands race.” Obama waged a campaign against cynicism and challenged people to believe a black man could be president, and voters responded.

Mar 15 2010 | Read Full Review of The Substance of Hope: Barack...

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"The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress" (Walker & Co., $23) is the perspective of an erudite historian, William Jelani Cobb, Ph.D., whose book will be a valuable part of the Obama story.

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The New Yorker

He was the cornerstone of a new movement that both embraced and rejected the themes of the Harlem Renaissance: it adopted the cultural idealism of writers like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, but, rather than producing art for white consumption, the Black Arts Movement fixed its attention...

Jan 15 2014 | Read Full Review of The Substance of Hope: Barack...

The day began with questions about why a young man was killed. It ended as a referendum on the militarization of American police forces.

Aug 14 2014 | Read Full Review of The Substance of Hope: Barack...

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