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Achieving Blackness: Race, Black Nationalism, and Afrocentrism in the Twentieth Century

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0814707081
ISBN-10: 0814707084
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“This book is engagingly written from start to finish, and, since (Austin) draws upon- and often debunks- views of other scholars, I felt like I was eavesdropping at a symposium which grew heated at times. . . . I also must confess this is the most compelling reading I've done this year.”
-Gerri Gribi,Curator, AfroAmericanHeritage.com

“This highly informed work addresses a complicated and difficult topic in light of solid research and common sense. It should become required reading for those who are interested in clear definitions and balanced views.”
-Wilson J. Moses,author of Creative Conflict in African American Thought



“Austin does a magnificent job of advancing the field and pushes the scholarly conversation in exciting and productive directions. Beautifully written, this truly is a groundbreaking piece of work and will have a major impact on the field because it challenges leading theorists and well-established theories of race and difference.”
-David N. Pellow,author of Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago



“Algernon Austin offers sweeping, occasionally defiant, essays on the state of Black social and political thought. Achieving Blackness will provoke, inspire, irritate, and educate its readers. Austin may well be setting the agenda for a new generation of race theorists.”
-Charles Lemert,author of Dark Thoughts: Race and the Eclipse of Society

About the Author

Algernon Austin is Director of the Thora Institute.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (April 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814707084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814707081
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,579,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Algernon Austin, founder and director of the Thora Institute, is a sociologist who goes after "common knowledge" about black Americans with the facts, the data, and the studies.

In this thought-provoking work, he persuasively argues that "races are social creations," developed at particular times in history to address specific political and economic situations. He says once the idea of race exists - that is, once people believe in, and therefore see, racial differences - those differences become "a tool that can be used in new or redefined situations of conflict." One need only look at the changing definitions used by the US census to see how fluid definitions of "race" can be.

A good portion is devoted to establishing working definitions of terms like "ethnicity" and "cultural nationalism," all of which also seem to be rather fluid among scholars.

Of course, the idea that race is socially constructed is not new. But he carries it a step further by examining how race is understood and plays out in social dynamics through an analysis of "blackness" in the Twentieth Century. He begins by exploring the Asiatic self-identity of the "first" Nation of Islam, then moves to the Black Power Era when "Negroes" were transformed to "Blacks," and informally enforced norms shamed "white" black people into acting more like "black" black people. The final case study is the Afrocentric Era of the 1980's-'90's, which drew upon a rather mythical version of Africa as a source of black self-esteem and which, he argues, reflected conservative American thought in that it blamed "a culture of poverty" rather than political/economic/social structures for the woes of the "black underclass." (Which, incidentally, he argues is overestimated.
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Using Black nationalism as the context, Dr. Austin's book considers some of the problematic aspects of prevailing sociological theories of race within academia. It is a rather orthodox deconstruction of racial theories that doesn't cover any new ground in the discussion of race or Black identity. It does, however, provide a fascinating and succinct history of Black nationalism.
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