The Last of the Black Emperors: The Hollow Comeback of Marion Barry in a New Age of Black Leaders

Jonetta Rose Barras, Author
Jonetta Rose Barras, Author Bancroft Press $24 (332p) ISBN 978-0-9631246-6-1
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
Open Ebook - 978-1-61088-072-5
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In Washington Times columnist Barras's hard-hitting assessment, Marion Barry, mayor of Washington, D.C., is ""a chief purveyor of African-American-extortionist politics... squeezing whites for as much as possible."" Barras, who is African American, charges that Barry's divisive brand of race-based politics has fostered black dependency on the white establishment instead of building coalitions within the black community. Yet her tough-minded profile of Barry--who bounded back from a 1990 drug bust and six months in prison with his 1994 reelection to a fourth mayoral term--is not entirely negative. She probes Barry's abiding popularity with his constituency, who, she maintains, view his well-publicized womanizing and crack addiction as the indiscretions of a prodigal son who rose above his impoverished Mississippi childhood to become a civil rights activist in the 1960s. She credits Barry with serious attempts to eliminate waste and corruption during his current term, and she argues that Congress set him up for martyrdom by passing legislation in 1997 that stripped the D.C. mayor's office of basic executive powers and denied funds to the district. Nevertheless, she urges Barry not to seek a fifth term (he has already announced that he will not), to step aside for an emerging generation of African American politicians who, in her opinion, have transcended the politics of race. Author tour. (July)
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