Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sugrue, Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race

Tom Sugrue's new book, Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race, has been published by Princeton University Press. Based on the Lawrence Stone Lectures as Princeton, this is a short, elegant read that sets Obama's election in the context of the history of race in the United States, chronicled in Sugrue's past work. Here's the book description and blurbs:

Barack Obama, in his acclaimed campaign speech discussing the troubling complexities of race in America today, quoted William Faulkner's famous remark "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." In Not Even Past, award-winning historian Thomas Sugrue examines the paradox of race in Obama's America and how President Obama intends to deal with it.

Obama's journey to the White House undoubtedly marks a watershed in the history of race in America. Yet even in what is being hailed as the post-civil rights era, racial divisions--particularly between blacks and whites--remain deeply entrenched in American life. Sugrue traces Obama's evolving understanding of race and racial inequality throughout his career, from his early days as a community organizer in Chicago, to his time as an attorney and scholar, to his spectacular rise to power as a charismatic and savvy politician, to his dramatic presidential campaign. Sugrue looks at Obama's place in the contested history of the civil rights struggle; his views about the root causes of black poverty in America; and the incredible challenges confronting his historic presidency.

Does Obama's presidency signal the end of race in American life? In Not Even Past, a leading historian of civil rights, race, and urban America offers a revealing and unflinchingly honest assessment of the culture and politics of race in the age of Obama, and of our prospects for a postracial America.


"In this brilliant work of contemporary history, Thomas Sugrue vividly reconstructs the America in which Barack Obama came of age, and expertly probes the varied political and intellectual influences that have shaped our president's thinking about race and civil rights. No one has written about the complexities of racial politics or Obama's racial compromises with more skill, insight, or erudition. A powerful and sobering book."--Gary Gerstle, author of American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century

"Thomas Sugrue's elegant book offers a compelling look at the state of American race relations at the moment of Obama's ascendancy. Embedding this political moment in the context of the complex portrait of civil rights developed in his previous work, Sugrue enables us to see both the power and also the limits of charismatic leadership in driving social change."--Mary L. Dudziak, author of Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy

"Not Even Past is a thoughtful reflection on Barack Obama's rise to the presidency and what it tells us--and doesn't tell us--about the meaning and significance of race in the twenty-first-century United States. Admirably concise and elegantly written, this book lays bare the mystique of the 'postracial' presidency without resorting to the kinds of unanchored generalizations and truisms that too often attend conversations about race."--Alice O'Connor, University of California, Santa Barbara

Sugrue is reviewed, along with David Remnick, The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama in Books and Culture.