Cornel West: The Radical Democratic Tradition


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Air date: 
Tue, 07/11/2017 - 9:00am to 10:00am


Recorded in Portland, OR on October 27, 1995.

Throughout history there have been individuals who have challenged conventional wisdom and have stretched societal limits. Collectively they constitute the radical democratic tradition. A sterling example of this lineage is Rosa Parks. Segregation was entrenched throughout the South. Montgomery, Alabama was one of its bastions. But on December 1st 1955, this 43-year old activist transformed history. She refused to sit in the back of the bus and was arrested. By her simple act of courage and defiance Rosa Parks triggered the Montgomery bus boycott, which in turn sparked the civil rights movement. Seemingly inconsequential actions can lead to momentous changes. It’s hard to predict when they’ll occur. Martin Luther King, Jr, who first came to prominence during the Montgomery bus boycott once said, “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Cornel West has taught at Princeton, Harvard, Yale and the University of Paris. He is now teaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York. He has been called "the preeminent African American intellectual of his generation." With his preacher-like cadences and passionate delivery, he is much in demand as a speaker. Among his many books are Race Matters, The Rich and the Rest of Us and Black Prophetic Fire.

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