Started reading Cornel West’s new book “Black Prophetic Fire.” I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the Socratic method dialogue format, but Christa Buschendorf’s partnering with West makes all the difference in the world. She asks the right questions- it flat out works like a charm.
As someone interested in the life of Frederick Douglass, I devoured that chapter first. West’s analysis of Douglass is a fair balance of praise and criticism. In my look at Douglass I had gotten into hero worship mode, so I needed West’s penetrating look to off set that.
Douglass peaked, West points out, after emancipation. But he is fair with that criticism, saying – “So it is not a matter to reduce Douglass, but to contextualize him, to historize him.”
He also says, “There is nobody like him. I mean, I don’t know of any figure in American history whose language and oratory is so full of fire and electricity focusing on a particular form of injustice. I think Douglass stands along in that regard."
I next read the Ida Wells chapter, because she came up in my look at Douglass as a heroine who put her life on the line to speak out against lynching. Wells was a leader when men dominated the Civil Rights movement.
Next up was W.E.B. Dubois, a great who needs no introduction, but someone who whites tried to marginalize. This was the most difficult chapter to read, as West and Buschendorf veer off into deep philosophical territory at one point.
Ella Baker, I’m ashamed to say, I did not know. But West tells us about her great leadership as an organizer, especially with SNCC. Her thing was working away from the limelight and she did it better than anyone.
I probably won’t read about Malcom X although I should, but it’s a bit too much for me.
That leaves Martin Luther King, Jr, a man who knew a little something about the fiery passions of pouring your heart out for the causes you believe in.
The book includes a photo of each of these greats. I would have liked to seen them on the cover, but that's just a small criticism for what is otherwise a must read.