When voters in 2008 chose the United States’ first black president, some Americans hailed the event as a sign that the nation had, at long last, transcended its bloody history of racial inequality. Obama’s victory was indescribably momentous, but if the intervening years proved anything, it is that we never leave history entirely behind. Indeed, this may be the ultimate lesson of the Obama era.
First published in 2010, The Substance of Hope is acclaimed historian Jelani Cobb’s meditation on what Obama’s election represented, an insightful investigation into the civil rights movement forces that helped produce it, and a prescient inquiry into how American society does—and does not—change. In penetrating, elegant prose, Cobb teases apart the paradoxes embodied in race and patriotism, identity and citizenship, progress and legacy.
Now reissued with a new introduction by the author, reflecting on how the seismic impact of the Obama presidency continues to shape America, The Substance of Hope is an indelible work of history and cultural criticism from one of our most singular voices.