Prophetic Leadership and Visionary Hope
New Essays on the Work of Cornel West
by Barbara Will
Thirty years have passed since Cornel West’s book Race Matters rose to the top of the bestseller lists in 1993. Yet his book remains as relevant as ever to American culture—even more so, if one considers its influence on contemporary racial justice movements such as Black Lives Matter, prison justice, and the fight for police reform. Prophetic Leadership and Visionary Hope, an edited volume of essays by leading scholars in Black studies, religious studies, and social justice history, looks back to the original 1993 text and forward into the future of racial understanding and healing in our current century, responding to Dr. West’s own repeated insistence that we can only understand our present and future by looking back.
By reengaging with West’s book at this seminal moment, Prophetic Leadership and Visionary Hope offers new points of entry into the thorny issues that the 1993 text addressed: the challenge of leadership in a culture marked by the legacy of white supremacy; the limited value of liberal affirmative action programs in promoting the affirmation of Black humanity; the dangerous seductions of African American conservatism and the question of Black self-regard (what West called “black nihilism”); the necessity and difficulty of cross-race solidarity and cross-religious affinity; the need to channel legitimate Black rage over untenable conditions of existence into productive opportunities and viewpoints. All of these issues are even more marked in American society today. The voices collected in this volume are the legitimate intellectual heirs of the original Race Matters. With essays that span the topics of history, politics, philosophy, religion, cultural studies, music, and aesthetics, Prophetic Leadership and Visionary Hope is as wide-ranging as the thinker whose ideas it engages, interrogates, and celebrates.
Contributors: Nkosi Du Bois Anderson, Paul A. Bové, Matthew M. Briones, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Susannah Heschel, Lucius T. Outlaw Jr., Andrew Prevot, Brandon M. Terry, Cornel West, Barbara Will.