From the Bayou to the Bay

The Autobiography of a Black Liberation Scholar

By Robert C. Smith

Subjects: Autobiography, Biography And Memoir, African American Studies, American History, American Politics, Intellectual History
Series: SUNY series in African American Studies
Paperback : 9781438482323, 230 pages, July 2021
Hardcover : 9781438482316, 230 pages, January 2021

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Table of contents


1. Growing Up Accommodating Segregation with Community and Culture

2. The Awakening: Malcolm, Black Power, and Black Studies

3. Berkeley: Revolution in the Air

4. Los Angeles Redux: UCLA and Bird

5. New York City, the New School, and Discovering Ethnicity

6. Howard and the Black Experience

7. The College at Purchase and the Conservation of Human Resources

8. Howard Redux and Prairie View

9. San Francisco State: Controversies, Contradictions, and Black Liberation Scholarship

10. The End


The intellectual autobiography of a leading scholar in the field of African American Studies.


In this refreshingly candid intellectual autobiography, Robert C. Smith traces the evolution of his consciousness and identity from his early days in rural Louisiana to his emergence as one of the nation's leading scholars of African American politics. He interweaves this personal narrative with the significant events and cultural flashpoints of the last half of the twentieth century, including the Watts Rebellion, the rise of the Black Power movement, the tumultuous protests at Berkeley, and the sex and drug revolutions of the 1960s. As a graduate student he experiences the founding of Black Studies, the grounding in blackness at Howard University, and, as a professor, the swirling controversies and contradictions of Black Studies and feminism at San Francisco State University. Smith also locates his story in the context of the scholarly literature on African American politics, imbuing it with his own personal perspective. His account illuminates the past but, at the same time, looks toward the future of the long struggle by African American scholars to use knowledge as a base of power in the fight against racism and white supremacy.

Robert C. Smith is Emeritus Professor of Political Science at San Francisco State University. He is the author of many books, including African American Leadership (coauthored with Ronald W. Walters); John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama, and the Politics of Ethnic Incorporation and Avoidance; and Ronald W. Walters and the Fight for Black Power, 1969–2010, all published by SUNY Press.


"From the Bayou to the Bay is in part a seminar on the depth, breadth, and concentration a scholar must expend to be ranked as a pre-eminent thinker in a major academic discipline. This book lays bare the distinction between talking the talk, and walking the walk. Robert C. Smith, for the good of us all, has mastered both." — David Covin, Sacramento State University

"An inherently fascinating and impressive account of an extraordinary life of equally extraordinary achievements played out in times of social turmoil and cultural conflict, From the Bayou to the Bay is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college and university library Contemporary African American Biography collections and African American Demographic Studies curriculum reading lists." — Midwest Book Review

"From the Bayou to the Bay is an engaging and accessible 'coming-of-age' memoir by one of the nation's preeminent scholars of Black politics." — Charles E. Jones, University of Cincinnati