cover image The Speech: Race and Barack Obama's “A More Perfect Union”

The Speech: Race and Barack Obama's “A More Perfect Union”

T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, . . Bloomsbury, $18 (272pp) ISBN 978-1-59691-667-8

A team of scholars and journalists explore the implications of Barack Obama's speech “A More Perfect Union,” given in the heat of the 2008 primary campaign, in this volume edited by Sharpley-Whiting (Pimps Up, Hos Down ). Written by Obama in response to the media frenzy over statements by his pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright, “A More Perfect Union” addressed the enduring legacy of slavery and racism and instantly entered the canon of great American oratory. The contributors use the speech as a starting point to examine the divide between civil rights–era activism (and activists) and the politics of a younger generation that has grown up in its shadow, as well as the development of black oratory, the meaning of a “postracial” society, the immigrant experience and divisions between the descendants of American slaves and postcolonial immigrants from the Caribbean, Africa and Latin America. Scholarly without being dry, the book offers a way forward from what has become a stalemate between a “color-blind” white America that sees racism as a problem solved in the 1960s and a nation of ethnic minorities that experiences daily its structural inequities. (Aug.)