chapter  11
40 Pages

The Rise of Social Consciousness

During the 1960s it was often said that African Americans had one civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, one political leader, Adam Clayton Powell, and one public intellectual, James Baldwin. However, by the 1990s there were scores of African Americans seeking to become public intellectuals, many of them quick with words and eloquent in speech but with no practical activist traditions. A few of them became quite popular on the public platform with commentaries, public announcements, and debates. Darlene Hines, bell hooks, Nell Irvin Painter, Frances Cress Welsing, Ama Mazama, Joyce King, Marimba Ani, and Patricia HillCollins were the leading women speakers. James Turner, James Stewart, Leonard Jeffries, Jacob Carruthers, Asa Hilliard, Cornel West, Ismael Reed, Stanley Crouch, Michael Eric Dyson, Charles Johnson, John Edgar Wideman, Manning Marable, Henry Louis Gates Jr, Maulana Karenga, Na’im Akbar, and Wade Nobles represented a host of male lecturers named as public intellectuals. However, almost all of them were associated with universities. Perhaps the people poet Gil Scott-Heron, who died on May 27, 2011, may have escaped the branding as a school intellectual, finding his public statements in the dire historical realities of African people and speaking his words as poetry with music.