Cover: Race Men, from Harvard University PressCover: Race Men in PAPERBACK

Race Men

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$36.00 • £31.95 • €32.95

ISBN 9780674004047

Publication Date: 11/15/2000


240 pages

13 halftones

The W. E. B. Du Bois Lectures


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While a number of African American women in the race movement have accused their male counterparts of sexism in recent years, few have done so as authoritatively as Hazel Carby in this groundbreaking book. Critiquing the role of masculinity in the work of such progressive historical figures as W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Miles Davis, Leadbelly, and the biographer C. L. R. James, Carby constructs a semiological and historical context for understanding both the inherent ‘male centeredness’ of black race leaders in the 20th century and the ways in which such repressive methods of thinking and acting continue to undermine the cause of black liberation… Rather than writing a polemical tract about the present, Carby uses history to make an implicit critique of contemporary African American affairs… Carby’s book is a pioneering model of…empathy and intellectual largesse. Race Men reads as a blueprint for a new and more potent identity based politics—a bold warning about the perils of delimiting our sense of who we are.—Maurice Berger, Village Voice

Hazel Carby has been at the cutting edge of African American studies ever since her landmark 1980 essay on early black woman writers and the blues helped many dyed-in-the-wool literary critics see the importance of the vernacular in black culture. Race Men, her intelligent and timely study of black public figures from W. E. B. Du Bois to Danny Glover, is often rightly acerbic especially when describing the machismo underpinning the work of Miles Davis, the disturbing racial implications of the Lethal Weapon series, or the stuffed-shirted public position of Cornel West (literally as he prescribes a dress code for black intellectuals)… Race Men reveals many insights in its groundbreaking investigation of the usually unspoken symbiosis of race and masculinity, but it is only the opening salvo in a discussion which will run and run.—Alan Rice, New Formations

[A] provocative…look at depictions of black masculinity in novels, jazz, film and photography.—Jonathan Rieder, New York Times

Carby…is best known for her landmark 1987 study of African-American women novelists, Reconstructing Womanhood. In Race Men, she turns her attention to men without dulling her commitment to feminism. This is a sympathetic book; Carby writes about these important men with insight and admiration. Throughout, she explores the difficulties each faced in defining himself within our racist society. Again and again she shows that the process of becoming a man has meant excluding women… This accumulation of examples from the mainstream arenas of sports, music, and movies supports Carby’s double point: becoming a black man remains a fraught process and those who have done it successfully have not yet figured out how to imagine or include positive and powerful women.—Anne E. Fernald, Boston Book Review

In her new book Race Men, Carby questions the black male archetypes of the century—and casts the historic figures she deals with in a new light… Carby can be both a subtle and yet strongly ideological writer, who can use feminist theory to bring out new dimensions of even such all-male enclaves as the world of B-bop music… Race Men is a rare book, which looks at several different subjects—from jazz to black political philosophy, from action films to the blues—from a refreshingly radical perspective and brings real insight to the study of black masculinity. Carby’s work transcends cultural studies in this case to become an eloquent survey into how role-playing and expectations construct everything else—race, gender, sexuality—and how those in turn affect modern culture and modern life.—Farhan Haq, Asian Age

Hazel V. Carby…offers a revealing look at the images of black manhood and masculinity in America… The strength of Race Men lies in Carby’s absorbing observations of various dimensions of black masculinity manifested through such genres as music, literature, film and photography.—Charles A. Brooks, Black Issues Book Review

Carby gives us a sharp and poignant insight into the black human condition… [She] is as vehement in her denunciation of black male chauvinism as she is of white racism.India Weekly

Carby takes issue with the theories espoused by W. E. B. Du Bois in his seminal work The Soul of the Black Folk. Tracing the development of black scholarship forward, she levels criticism at current black thinkers such as Cornel West whom she feels lay claim to, benefit from, and thus propagate the narrow boundaries of black scholarship delineated by Du Bois, which defines the black public intellectual in ways that exclude women… [Carby is] eloquently persuasive about the dangers inherent in having fewer voices, especially those of women, speaking for the race as a whole. She argues that Du Bois, as the self-proclaimed father of future generations of black intellectuals, leaves little room for departure from his rigid set of guidelines. Indeed, throughout her book, Carby insists that the intellectual and artistic leadership of black America should not fall solely to the race men.—Zebulon V. Miletsky, New England Quarterly

Race Men is a hard-hitting polemic…[and] each chapter stands alone as a tightly wound argument.—Willoughby Mariano, New Haven Advocate

Carby’s voice is clear, well documented, courageous and loud… Carby consistently challenges her reader to look at race and masculinity in ways that are new, difficult and often dangerous to our notions of self and of others… [She] adds a much-needed and very welcome new dimension to our perceptions not only of Du Bois, Robeson, James, Davis and others she specifically names, but of our notions of race and maleness in all their aspects… Race Men is a welcome call to intellectual arms in the battle not only for visibility and voice for women of African descent, but analysis of and liberation from oppressive notions of race and masculinity for women and men, whether they recognize them as such or not.—Jill Nelson, Women’s Review of Books

In six compelling essays, Carby…deconstructs representations of black masculinity and racial leadership in a variety of cultural settings, during critical periods of the 20th century… Carby is gifted at finding new ways of reading American cultural products in relation to race and gender in America. Highly recommended for African-American studies, American studies, and gender/women’s studies collections.—Sherri Barnes, Library Journal

Race Men is a poignant, courageous book. It exposes what we too frequently take for granted: the manner in which oppressive masculinities permeate black politics and culture, closing off other ways of thinking, seeing, feeling, and creating. Hazel Carby takes us backstage, so to speak, and reveals how performances of manhood can silence other voices, reproduce patriarchy, and yet occasionally offer a glimmer of what could happen if we overturned the prison house of masculinity.—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Yo’ Mama’s DisFunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America

Hazel Carby throws down the glove of gender before the wonted ‘Race Man.’ Her investigation of masculinity, race, and nation speaks volumes and names names—from W. E. B. Du Bois to Cornel West. Thank you, Hazel Carby!—Nell Irvin Painter, author of Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol

I’ve been wondering when some likely black feminist was going to challenge, in particular, the male-centeredness of the ‘scholarship’ of this recent coterie of black public intellectuals. I need to wonder no longer for in Race Men, Hazel Carby has ably begun the campaign in this meticulously argued treatise on the usually unquestioned symbiosis of masculinity and ‘race’ at the core of most debates in Africana Studies. May this propitious opening salvo become a flood of salubrious discourse.—Michele Wallace, author of Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman

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