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The Last of the Black Emperors : The Hollow Comeback of Marion Barry in a New Age of Black Leaders Hardcover – June 25, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 332 pages
  • Publisher: Bancroft Press; First edition (June 25, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0963124668
  • ISBN-13: 978-0963124661
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,220,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Journalist Jonetta Rose Barras takes a hard-boiled look at the rise and fall of Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry, who was reelected after serving time for smoking crack. Barras, in her top- notch reporting, lays bare the racially charged Washington political landscape in which Barry operates, writing, "Some blacks are leery of Barry. Having found their way inside corporate boardrooms and suburban neighborhoods, they temper their praise for him, labeling his race-based politics divisive.... Still, their cultural connections demand that they respect and marvel at Barry...."

Barras chronicles Barry's beginnings, from his '60s student work in Nashville, Tennessee (which is also discussed in broader scope in David Halberstam's The Children), to his ascendance from the D.C. school board to the mayor's office. But Barras also calls into account the effectiveness of Barry's '60s-style political activism and the near-despotic characteristics of his generation's hold on power. "Twenty years from now," she writes, "if today's new black leaders provide for their own timely exits from the political stage--something their predecessors failed to do--they will help realize the dream of civil rights era activists." Barras's book is a sometimes scathing account of Barry's peril and promise that also serves as a cautionary tale for future black leaders. --Eugene Holley Jr.

From Publishers Weekly

In Washington Times columnist Barras's hard-hitting assessment, Marion Barry, mayor of Washington, D.C., is "a chief purveyor of African-American-extortionist politics... squeezing whites for as much as possible." Barras, who is African American, charges that Barry's divisive brand of race-based politics has fostered black dependency on the white establishment instead of building coalitions within the black community. Yet her tough-minded profile of Barry?who bounded back from a 1990 drug bust and six months in prison with his 1994 reelection to a fourth mayoral term?is not entirely negative. She probes Barry's abiding popularity with his constituency, who, she maintains, view his well-publicized womanizing and crack addiction as the indiscretions of a prodigal son who rose above his impoverished Mississippi childhood to become a civil rights activist in the 1960s. She credits Barry with serious attempts to eliminate waste and corruption during his current term, and she argues that Congress set him up for martyrdom by passing legislation in 1997 that stripped the D.C. mayor's office of basic executive powers and denied funds to the district. Nevertheless, she urges Barry not to seek a fifth term (he has already announced that he will not), to step aside for an emerging generation of African American politicians who, in her opinion, have transcended the politics of race. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Herbert L Calhoun on March 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Except for a rather heavy-handed "black accommodationist bias," Jonetta Rose Barras has crafted a masterful book about everyone's favorite "mayor for life," Marion Barry. Using as her theme, the title of Nina Simone's tune "Mississippi Goddamn," Ms. Barras, weaves a story that is balanced, nuanced, exciting, interesting throughout, full of accurate history, and just superbly written: One could not have anticipated how good this book would be just by looking at its cover. Had it not had Barry's picture on the cover (wearing a crown and looking like Kingfish of Amos N' Andy fame), I think I would have picked it up and read it a decade ago.

I too had quickly forgotten that Marion Barry was once a shinning light in the Civil Rights firmament. He was one of the original foot soldiers of my generation's Civil Rights revolution. At that time, we also forgot much too soon that DC itself was a sort of "Uncle Tom and Aunt Jemima" backwater, an enclave of ex-maids and chauffeurs, who were slowly learning how to avoid the civil rights struggle in favor of how to pretend to be middle classed. As a result, DC was completely oblivious to the emerging civil rights struggle. Most of DC's blacks had learned all too well that their status and jobs depended on how not to "rock the boat," and required them to be "card carrying accommodationists," if they intended to continue their mostly middle class existences. And even though it is clear that the author does not care much for him, she nevertheless makes it clear that it was Marion Barry who finally put DC on the Civil Rights map.

After breaking away from Stokely Carmichael's SNCC, Barry single-handedly led DC into the civil rights struggle and into a reputation on the issue that it could be proud of.
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Format: Hardcover
Praise for Jonetta Rose Barras and The Last of the Black Emperors
The Last of the Black Emperors is wonderful...fascinating, colorful, exciting, honest, and stylishly written...An eye-opener for America that everybody will be talking about this summer... -Ralph Collier, host of the nationally syndicated radio program, "I Hear America Talking"
A deeply rewarding book. Ms. Barras is lucid both in her writing and her reportage. She deftly places Mayor Barry as the last beneficiary of a bygone era in black politics. All said and done, Marion Barry has been read his political obituary. -Max Rodriguez, publisher, The Quarterly Review of Books
This honest and in-depth look at the life and times of our national capital's most tenacious mayor not only helps us to better understand Marion Barry the man, but it also vividly expresses the unique political and social character of one of the last surviving city-states. Jonetta Rose Barras brings us an insightful and provocative perspective to the successes, tribulations, and resurrection of this "Old Guard" political activist-turned "Mayor for Life." Her book will forever stand as a historical analysis of the politics of the post-civil rights era and a prophecy for the future of American blacks in our nation's political framework. -Armstrong Williams, nationally syndicated columnist, author of Beyond Blame
An eloquent and disturbing book. Barras relocates the transfixing story of Mayor Marion Barry's rise and fall and rise and fall from the arena of electoral politics to the realm of cultural myth and religious belief.
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Margaret Gentry on July 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In this book, Ms. Barras, a writer of opinion columns, has produced an extremely long opinion column dressed up as a "book". Her reporting is shallow, and her description of the 1994 mayoral campaign is inaccurate and woefully incomplete.
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