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Lecture to examine cost of Obama presidency to black politics

Thursday, September 18, 2014

LAWRENCE – The election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first African-American president marked a historic moment in American politics. Yet the milestone may have come at a significant cost to African-American political progress.

This claim will be explored further during “Barack Obama and the Future of Black Politics,” presented as this year’s Marwa Africana Lecture Series, hosted by the University of Kansas Department of African & African-American Studies.

The lecture will be delivered by Fredrick Harris, a professor of political science and director of the Center on African-American Politics and Society at Columbia University. Harris studies American politics, across areas of race, participation, religion and African-American politics.

“Obama's very success exacted a heavy cost on black politics. The social problems targeted by an earlier generation of black politicians – racial disparities in income and education, stratospheric incarceration and unemployment rates – all persist, yet Obama's election, ironically, marginalized those issues, keeping them off the political agenda,” Harris said. “Meanwhile, the civil rights movement's militancy to attack the vestiges of racial inequality is fading.”

Harris’ essays on the effect of Obama’s presidency on African-American politics have been published in the Washington Post and The New York Times. He’s appeared as a commentator for various media outlets, including National Public Radio, CNN and “Good Morning America.” He’s also explored the subject in more depth in his recent book, “The Price of the Ticket: Barack Obama and the Rise and Fall of Black Politics” (Oxford, 2012). 

The event will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25, in Alderson Auditorium of the Kansas Union and is free and open to the public. A book signing and reception will follow.

Additional sponsors of the event are the Langston Hughes Center, Kansas African Studies Center, departments of American Studies and Political Science, and College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

All presenting and sponsoring units are part of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, which encourages learning without boundaries in its more than 50 departments, programs and centers. Through innovative research and teaching, the College emphasizes interdisciplinary education, global awareness and experiential learning. The College is KU's broadest, most diverse academic unit.