I had the privilege of helping to curate this ensemble of provocative essays for the New York Times' "Room for Debate" webpage. Do Black Intellectuals Need to Talk About Race? Two decades ago, The Atlantic Monthly chronicled the rise of black academics, including Cornel West, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Patricia Williams, who had vigorously taken on the role of public intellectuals, stirring debate on issues of importance to African-Americans. Today, more African-Americans hold more positions at colleges, not always involving subjects that have particular relevance to black people.
Do these academics still have a special obligation to address the nation’s social and racial issues? Are there particular challenges or opportunities faced by intellectuals who talk to the public about social issues?
To read the lively dialogue, go to Room for Debate.