School of Humanities and Social Science
HISTORY SEMINAR SERIES – 2008
‘Black Conservatism in Modern America: Controversies and Consequences’
Dr Michael Ondaatje,
University of Newcastle
Friday, 19 September
10am to 11am
(with morning tea/coffee afterwards)
Cultural Collections Reading Room (near the Information Common),
Level 2, Auchmuty Library, Callaghan Campus
The increasing prominence of black conservative voices within American intellectual discourse during the past quarter century has prompted scrutiny of their contributions to black social and political thought, and led to fierce debate about their role in the nation’s rightward cultural shift. While their numbers have remained relatively small, the political impact of their presence has nonetheless been significant. Indeed, for much of the 1980s and 1990s, black conservative intellectuals were ensconced at the heart of the national dialogue on ‘race’, tapping into the enduring American philosophies of individualism and free enterprise, seeking to overturn the corrective political initiatives secured by the great civil rights movement. Insisting that their differences were not with the goals of freedom, justice and equality, but with the methods employed to achieve them, black conservatives argued that the liberal policies associated with the ‘Great Society’ of the late 1960s had failed, that government, far from providing the solutions, was in fact exacerbating the problems faced by African American people.
My paper will situate the hitherto marginalized phenomenon of black conservatism within its historical context and account for its latter day explosion into public discourse. Having established this essential background, the paper will then shift to examine the nature and significance of the political commentary that has focused on contemporary black conservative intellectuals, before considering how, or indeed whether, this commentary has served to advance understanding of these intellectuals’ thought and praxis. I will conclude by emphasizing the originality of my research on black conservatism and rather shamelessly “plugging” my forthcoming book on the subject.
Michael L. Ondaatje is Lecturer in American History at the University of Newcastle. His forthcoming book Black Conservative Intellectuals in Modern America will be published by the University of Pennsylvania Press (“Penn Press”) in 2009.
Staff, students and members of the public are welcome
Enquiries to: Victoria Haskins Victoria.Haskins@newcastle.edu.au Ph 49215221