Politics and Identity Among Black Intellectuals

Politics and Identity Among Black Intellectuals

Intellectuals, whatever their national or ethnic origins, often have had to make hard choices between creative and political activity. This problem is particularly acute for black American intellectuals. In no generation have they escaped the simultaneous pulls of creative and political obligations. Given the racism of American society, conflicting obligations have proved most difficult to manage.

The problem is exacerbated by an imbalance of supply and demand. The supply of black intellectuals has always lagged behind the Afro-American community’s enormous demands for them—demands that pull them in several directions at once. The majority of blacks, lacking the skills and resources for coping effectively with American life, demand of their intellectuals that they assume responsibilities often far removed from a given intellectual’s training and creative interests, thereby turning him, as it were, into a jack-of-all-trades and master of none.

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Lima