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Since 2012, Jelani Cobb has been contributing his deep knowledge of history and masterful journalism to The New Yorker, bringing nuance and clarity around issues of race, politics, history, and culture. Now, with co-editor David Remnick, he’s releasing The Matter of Black Lives, The New Yorker’s groundbreaking anthology on race in America — including work by James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Hilton Als, Zadie Smith, and more — with a foreword by Cobb.
From the pages of The New Yorker, The Matter of Black Lives provides a bold and complex portrait of Black life in America, told through stories of private triumphs and national tragedies, political vision, and artistic inspiration. It reaches back across a century, with Rebecca West’s classic account of a 1947 lynching trial and James Baldwin’s “Letter from a Region in My Mind” (which later formed the basis of The Fire Next Time); and yet, it also explores our current moment, from the classroom to the prison cell and the upheavals of what Jelani Cobb calls “the American Spring.”
Bringing together reporting, profiles, memoir, and criticism from writers such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Elizabeth Alexander, Hilton Als, Vinson Cunningham, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Malcolm Gladwell, Jamaica Kincaid, Kelefa Sanneh, Doreen St. Félix, and others, the collection offers startling insights about this country’s relationship with race. The Matter of Black Lives reveals the weight of a singular history, and challenges us to envision the future anew.
Jelani Cobb is a historian and the Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism at Columbia University, specializing in post-Civil War African American history, 20th-century American politics, and the history of the Cold War. A staff writer at The New Yorker since 2015, he is a recipient of the Sidney Hillman Award for Opinion and Analysis, as well as fellowships from the Ford Foundation and the Fulbright Foundation. He has authored numerous books, including his most recent, The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress. He lives in New York City.
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