Combines history and biography to interpret the last half century of black politics in America as represented in the life and work of a pivotal African American public intellectual.
From his leadership of the first modern lunch counter sit-ins at age twenty to his work on African American reparations at the time of his death at age seventy-two, Ronald W. Walters (1938–2010) was at the cutting edge of African American politics. A preeminent scholar, activist, and media commentator, he was founding chair of the Black Studies Department at Brandeis, where he shaped the epistemological parameters of the new discipline. Walters was an early strategist of congressional black power and a longtime advocate of a black presidential candidacy. His writings on the politics of race in America both predicted the constraints on President Obama in advancing African American interests and anticipated the emergence of the white nationalism found in the Tea Party and Donald Trump insurgency. In this fascinating book, Robert C. Smith combines history and biography to offer an overview of the last half century of black politics in America through the lens of the life and work of the man often described as the W. E. B. Du Bois of his time.
Robert C. Smith is Professor of Political Science at San Francisco State University. His many books include African American Leadership, coauthored with Walters, and What Has This Got to Do with the Liberation of Black People? The Impact of Ronald W. Walters on African American Thought and Leadership (coedited with Cedric Johnson and Robert G. Newby), both also published by SUNY Press.
"Smith's sympathetic but probing and nuanced account offers a unique glimpse into the struggles, successes, and satisfactions of Walters's engaged life." — Journal of American History
"This political biography's intellectual dissecting should be seen as a definitive roadmap to the future of American-based Black nationalist and Pan-African political development." — Diverse: Issues in Higher Education
"This book makes an invaluable contribution to our understanding of one of the most pivotal scholarly voices in global black politics of the twentieth century. Smith has done an excellent job capturing the personality, history, and the interpersonal affections and loyalties of this extraordinary man." — Todd C. Shaw, author of Now Is the Time! Detroit Black Politics and Grassroots Activism
"Organizing Ron's biography around the evolution of the black struggle is a really great and appropriate idea; the struggle and Ron were one." — Mack H. Jones, author of Knowledge, Power, and Black Politics: Collected Essays