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The New Yorker's Jelani Cobb on civil rights

Jelani Cobb animation

In 1963, Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and declared that with faith “we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony”. Despite King's dream of equality, in 2019 America remains a divided country, still haunted by the legacy of slavery. The work of generations of civil rights activists has not eliminated the impact of race on poverty, violence and voting rights – which King spoke of as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. His “beautiful symphony” is still a long way off.

Writer and educator Jelani Cobb is a long-time staff writer at The New Yorker, where his work brings to life the intricate complexities of race in America. At a time characterised by derision and disunion, his work is celebrated for welcoming conversation and dialogue. Who better to guide us through the struggle for civil rights in America?

Jelani Cobb Portriat

Jelani Cobb

Journalist and educator Jelani Cobb has dedicated his life to exploring the enormous complexity of race in America. A long-time staff writer at The New Yorker, Dr Cobb has written a remarkable series of articles about race, the police, and injustice. His articles include, The Anger in Ferguson, Murders in Charleston, and What We Talk About When We Talk About Reparations. As recipient of the Sidney Hillman Prize for Opinion & Analysis Journalism for his New Yorker columns, Cobb was praised for combining “the strengths of an on-the-scene reporter, a public intellectual, a teacher, a vivid writer, a subtle moralist, and an accomplished professional historian”.   

Dr Cobb was formerly Associate Professor of History at the University of Connecticut, where he was director of the Africana Studies Institute, and now teaches in the Colombia University School of Journalism. He has received Fellowships from the Fulbright and Ford Foundations. He is the author of Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress, To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic, and The Devil & Dave Chappelle and Other Essays. Jelani has two forthcoming books including a scholarly monograph based on his doctoral thesis, entitled Antidote to Revolution: African American Anticommunism and the Struggle for Civil Rights, 1931–1957.  

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