Additional Book Information

Series: New York Review Books
ISBN: 9781681375595
Pages: 136
Publication Date: October 6, 2020

Blackballed (Paperback)The Black Vote and US Democracy

by Darryl Pinckney

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With a new essay by the author

Blackballed is Darryl Pinckney’s meditation on a century and a half of participation by blacks in US electoral politics. In this combination of memoir, historical narrative, and contemporary political and social analysis, he investigates the struggle for black voting rights from Reconstruction through the civil rights movement to Barack Obama’s two presidential campaigns. Drawing on the work of scholars, the memoirs of civil rights workers, and the speeches and writings of black leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael, Andrew Young and John Lewis, Pinckney traces the disagreements among blacks about the best strategies for achieving equality in American society as well as the ways in which they gradually came to create the Democratic voting bloc that contributed to the election of the first black president.

Interspersed throughout the narrative are Pinckney’s own memories of growing up during the civil rights era and the reactions of his parents to the changes taking place in American society. He concludes with an examination of ongoing efforts by Republicans to suppress the black vote, with particular attention to the Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Also included here is Pinckney’s essay “What Black Means Now,” on the history of the black middle class, stereotypes about blacks and crime, and contemporary debates about “post-blackness,” as well as a new essay, “Buck Moon in Harlem,” which reflects on Juneteenth and the ongoing fight for racial justice, and offers a glimpse of New York City amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the protests following the killing of George Floyd.

Praise

A capacious and mind-opening experience awaits within.
Publishers Weekly, starred review

This brief but incisive reflection on the history of voting among African-Americans takes the form of a classic personal essay: light and conversational, circling its subject in a deliberately meandering style that ends up revealing more than a frontal attack might have.
The New Yorker

[A] slim but powerful volume.
—Bonnie Greer, The Independent

[This] slim book . . . offers a brisk history of black voting rights. It covers a lot of ground, surveying the trajectory of the civil-rights movement, musing on the influence of social media in the 2012 election, and describing the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision overturning a key section of the Voting Rights Act.
—Ari Berman, The Nation

Blackballed is timely and essential. Recent police killings of black boys and men have once again pushed race to the forefront of public awareness, and Darryl Pinckney’s slender volume asks that we pause and look deeper—into the past, into the current state of our democracy and into “what black means now.”
—Patricia Sullivan, The Washington Post

Part memoir, part historical reflection, all political: there’s something for everyone.
—Katherine Morgan, “15 Books About Race Everyone Should Read,” Real Simple

As young Americans take to the streets to say black lives matter, they're often told to vote. While voting is important, it's also important to remember how black political representation has been chipped away by voter ID laws, gerrymandering and felon disenfranchisement. Blackballed addresses the struggle for voting rights and for racial equality more broadly, drawing on Pinckney's own experiences and writings of civil rights leaders to create a complicated picture of black political identity.
—Isabella Rosario, Code Switch, NPR

A slim volume of two essays that challenge the very notion of a “post-racial” America. . . . [P]articularly incisive on the process of marketing black stereotypes . . . Not a manifesto but a thoughtful examination of ideas.
Kirkus Reviews

[E]ntertaining and enlightening . . . Pinckney enlivens his sketches of historical figures with snapshots of the most dramatic moments in their lives and examinations of the deeper political contexts in which those moments unfolded. . . . Like [Jess] Row and [Claudia] Rankine, Pinckney matches narrative form to function in clever and striking ways.
—Matt Wray, Public Books

Any reader familiar with the essays of Darryl Pinckney—in the New York Review of Books, for instance, or 2014’s Blackballed, a memoir/political dissection of efforts to suppress African American voter rights—knows that his writing is consistently informed by intellectual savvy and sharp wit. His fusion of the personal and the political makes him a peerless witness and participant, and lends his voice a weight and force that never comes at the expense of style or grace.
—Damian Van Denburgh, SFGate

Pinckney details how the history of the African American vote has shaped the psyche of political participation. In this short study, the author relies on scholars, commentators, and personal anecdotes to define how the ballot is a powerful evolving tool that African Americans can use to change society. . . . Recommended for political junkies and those seeking a quick study to gain a basic understanding of the importance of voting rights for African Americans.
Library Journal, starred review

Blackballed is a masterfully-crafted study of American democracy and the changing role of the black vote within it, from Reconstruction to the election of Barack Obama. It is insightful, personal, informative, and remarkably timely. The book not only speaks to current questions about race within the social and political arenas, but to broader issues of the health and legitimacy of a democracy in which some voices are kept from entering the dialogue. Blackballed is one of those special works that effortlessly transports readers to another time while subtly drawing thematic ties to the present day. One leaves the experience not only appreciating the work done by generations past, but contemplating one’s own role in the historical arc.
Challenges to Democracy, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University