Synopses & Reviews
Who are the "race men" standing for black America? It is a question Hazel Carby rejects, along with its long-standing assumption: that a particular type of black male can represent the race. A searing critique of definitions of black masculinity at work in American culture, Race Men
shows how these defining images play out socially, culturally, and politically for black and white society--and how they exclude women altogether.
Carby begins by looking at images of black masculinity in the work of W. E. B. Du Bois. Her analysis of The Souls of Black Folk reveals the narrow and rigid code of masculinity that Du Bois applied to racial achievement and advancement--a code that remains implicitly but firmly in place today in the work of celebrated African American male intellectuals. The career of Paul Robeson, the music of Huddie Ledbetter, and the writings of C. L. R. James on cricket and on the Haitian revolutionary, Toussaint L'Ouverture, offer further evidence of the social and political uses of representations of black masculinity.
In the music of Miles Davis and the novels of Samuel R. Delany, Carby finds two separate but related challenges to conventions of black masculinity. Examining Hollywood films, she traces through the career of Danny Glover the development of a cultural narrative that promises to resolve racial contradictions by pairing black and white men--still leaving women out of the picture.
A powerful statement by a major voice among black feminists, Race Men holds out the hope that by understanding how society has relied upon affirmations of masculinity to resolve social and political crises, we can learn to transcend them.
[A] provocative...look at depictions of black masculinity in novels, jazz, film and photography. -- Mary Ellen Ross - Religious Studies Review
Hazel Carby throws down the glove of gender before the wonted 'Race Man.' Her investigation of masculinity, race, and nation speaks volumes and names names--from W. E. B. Du Bois to Cornel West. Thank you, Hazel Carby! -- Michele Wallace, author of
Carby's voice is clear, well documented, courageous and loud...Carby consistently challenges her reader to look at race and masculinity in ways that are new, difficult and often dangerous to our notions of self and of others....[She] adds a much-needed and very welcome new dimension to our perceptions not only of Du Bois, Robeson, James, Davis and others she specifically names, but of our notions of race and maleness in all their aspects...Race Menis a welcome call to intellectual arms in the battle not only for visibility and voice for women of African descent, but analysis of and liberation from oppressive notions of race and masculinity for women and men, whether they recognize them as such or not. -- Maurice Berger - Village Voice
Race Menis a hard-hitting polemic...[and] each chapter stands alone as a tightly wound argument.
In her new book Race Men, Carby questions the black male archetypes of the century--and casts the historic figures she deals with in a new light...Carby can be both a subtle and yet strongly ideological writer, who can use feminist theory to bring out new dimensions of even such all-male enclaves as the world of B-bop music...Race Menis a rare book, which looks at several different subjects--from jazz to black political philosophy, from action films to the blues--from a refreshingly radical perspective and brings real insight to the study of black masculinity. Carby's work transcends cultural studies in this case to become an eloquent survey into how role-playing and expectations construct everything else--race, gender, sexuality--and how those in turn affect modern culture and modern life. -- Anne E. Fernald - Boston Book Review
Hazel Carby has been at the cutting edge of African American studies ever since her landmark 1980 essay on early black woman writers and the blues helped many dyed-in-the-wool literary critics see the importance of the vernacular in black culture. Race Men, her intelligent and timely study of black public figures from W. E. B. Du Bois to Danny Glover, is often rightly acerbic especially when describing the machismo underpinning the work of Miles Davis, the disturbing racial implications of the Lethal Weaponseries, or the stuffed-shirted public position of Cornel West (literally as he prescribes a dress code for black intellectuals)...Race Menreveals many insights in its groundbreaking investigation of the usually unspoken symbiosis of race and masculinity, but it is only the opening salvo in a discussion which will run and run. -- Nell Irvin Painter, author of
Hazel V. Carby...offers a revealing look at the images of black manhood and masculinity in America...The strength of Race Menlies in Carby's absorbing observations of various dimensions of black masculinity manifested through such genres as music, literature, film and photography. -- Willoughby Mariano - New Haven Advocate
Hazel Carby has been at the cutting edge of African American studies ever since her landmark 1980 essay on early black woman writers and the blues helped many dyed-in-the-wool literary critics see the importance ofthe vernacular in black culture. Race Men, her intelligent and timely study of black public figures from W. E. B. Du Bois to Danny Glover, is often rightly acerbic especially when describing themachismo underpinning the work of Miles Davis, the disturbing racial implications of the Lethal Weaponseries, or the stuffed-shirted public position of Cornel West (literally as he prescribes a dresscode for black intellectuals)...Race Menreveals many insights in its groundbreaking investigation of the usually unspoken symbiosis of race and masculinity, but it is only the opening salvo in adiscussion which will run and run.
While a number of African American women in the race movement have accused their male counterparts of sexism in recent years, few have done so as authoritatively as Hazel Carby in this groundbreaking book. Critiquing the role of masculinity in the work of such progressive historical figures as W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Miles Davis, Leadbelly, and the biographer C.L.R. James, Carby constructs a semiological and historical context for understanding both the inherent 'male centeredness' of black race leaders in the 20th century and the ways in which such repressive methods of thinking and acting continue to undermine the cause of black liberation...Rather than writing a polemical tract about the present, Carby uses history to make an implicit critique of contemporary African American affairs...Carby's book is a pioneering model of...empathy and intellectual largesse. Race Menreads as a blueprint for a new and more potent identity based politics--a bold warning about the perils of delimiting our sense of who we are. -- Jonathan Rieder - New York Times
Carby takes issue with the theories espoused by W. E. B. Du Bois in his seminal work The Soul of the Black Folk. Tracing the development of black scholarship forward, she levels criticism at current black thinkers such as Cornel West whom she feels lay claim to, benefit from, and thus propagate the narrow boundaries of black scholarship delineated by Du Bois, which defines the black public intellectual in ways that exclude women...[Carby is] eloquently persuasive about the dangers inherent in having fewer voices, especially those of women, speaking for the race as a whole. She argues that Du Bois, as the self-proclaimed father of future generations of black intellectuals, leaves little room for departure from his rigid set of guidelines. Indeed, throughout her book, Carby insists that the intellectual and artistic leadership of black America should not fall solely to the race men. -- Farhan Haq - Asian Age
Race Menis a hard-hitting polemic...[and] each chapter stands alone as a tightly wound argument. -- Jill Nelson - Women's Review of Books
Carby...is best known for her landmark 1987 study of African-American women novelists, Reconstructing Womanhood. In Race Men, she turns her attention to men without dulling her commitment to feminism. This is a sympathetic book; Carby writes about these important men with insight and admiration. Throughout, she explores the difficulties each faced in defining himself within our racist society. Again and again she shows that the process of becoming a man has meant excluding women...This accumulation of examples from the mainstream arenas of sports, music, and movies supports Carby's double point: becoming a black man remains a fraught process and those who have done it successfully have not yet figured out how to imagine or include positive and powerful women. -- Charles A. Brooks - Black Issues Book Review
Focusing on the United States primarily in the decades between 1920 and 1960, Susan Cahn's book examines the varying ways physical educators, leaders of athletic organizations, commercial sports promoters, popular media, and female athletes themselves tried to reconcile femininity with the apparently 'masculinizing' qualities of sport...Cahn tells [this story] more thoroughly and with greater depth than other accounts, while adding new layers of understanding. One of the book's strengths is its attention to the ways class and race intersected with gender. -- Zebulon V. Miletsky - New England Quarterly
In six compelling essays, Carby...deconstructs representations of black masculinity and racial leadership in a variety of cultural settings, during critical periods of the 20th century...Carby is gifted at finding new ways of reading American cultural products in relation to race and gender in America. Highly recommended for African-American studies, American studies, and gender/women's studies collections. -- Journal of Popular Culture
Race Menis a poignant, courageous book. It exposes what we too frequently take for granted: the manner in which oppressive masculinities permeate black politics and culture, closing off other ways of thinking, seeing, feeling, and creating. Hazel Carby takes us backstage, so to speak, and reveals how performances of manhood can silence other voices, reproduce patriarchy, and yet occasionally offer a glimmer of what could happen if we overturned the prison house of masculinity. -- Sherri Barnes - Library Journal
I've been wondering when some likely black feminist was going to challenge, in particular, the male-centeredness of the 'scholarship' of this recent coterie of black public intellectuals. I need to wonder no longer for in Race Men, Hazel Carby has ably begun the campaign in this meticulously argued treatise on the usually unquestioned symbiosis of masculinity and 'race' at the core of most debates in Africana Studies. May this propitious opening salvo become a flood of salubrious discourse. -- Robin D. G. Kelley, au
Carby gives us a sharp and poignant insight into the black human condition...[She] is as vehement in her denunciation of black male chauvinism as she is of white racism. -- Alan Rice - New Formations
A searing critique of definitions of black masculinity at work in American culture, Race Men shows how these defining images play out socially, culturally, and politically for black and white society--and how they exclude women altogether. A powerful statement by a major voice among black feminists, Race Men holds out the hope that by understanding how society has relied upon affirmations of masculinity to resolve social and political crises, we can learn to transcend them.
About the Author
Hazel V. Carbyis Chair of African and African American Studies and Professor of American Studies at <>Yale University. She is the author of Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelistand Cultures in Babylon.
Table of Contents
The Souls of Black Men
The Body and Soul of Modernism
Tuning the American Soul
Body Lines and Color Lines
Playin' the Changes
Lethal Weapons and City Games