James Baldwin and the Moral Crisis of American Democracy

  • Thursday, October 24, 2019 • 7:00 pm
  • Graham Chapel, Washington University in St. Louis

“James Baldwin and the Moral Crisis of American Democracy” is a public lecture by Eddie Glaude.

Eddie Glaude, James S. McDonnell Distinguished University and Chair, Department of African American Studies, is a scholar who speaks to the black and blue in America. His most well-known books, Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul, and In a Shade of Blue: Pragmatism and the Politics of Black America, take a wide look at black communities and reveal complexities, vulnerabilities, and opportunities for hope. Hope that is, in one of his favorite quotes from W.E.B Du Bois, “not hopeless, but a bit unhopeful.” Other muses include James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Bobby “Blue” Bland. In addition to his readings of early American philosophers and contemporary political scientists, Glaude turns to African American literature in his writing and teaching for insight into African American political life, religious thought, gender and class.

Currently Glaude is at work on a book about James Baldwin, tentatively titled James Baldwin’s America, 1963-1972. Of Baldwin, Glaude writes, “Baldwin’s writing does not bear witness to the glory of America. It reveals the country’s sins, and the illusion of innocence that blinds us to the reality of others. Baldwin’s vision then requires a confrontation with history (with slavery, Jim Crow segregation, with whiteness) to overcome its hold on us. Not to posit the greatness of America, but to establish the ground upon which to imagine the country anew.” Democracy in Black has been described in similar terms. Bill Moyers says the book “breathes with prophetic fire,” recently writing, “Democracy in Black is rich in history and bold in opinion, and inconvenient truths leap from every page.”

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