The Matter of Black Lives: Writing from The New Yorker

Jelani Cobb
In Conversation With Charlayne Hunter-Gault
Tuesday, November 9, 2021
Episode Summary

Historian and writer Jelani Cobb will present a collection of The New Yorker‘s groundbreaking writing on race in America, from stories of endurance and resilience to strength and pain—including work by James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Hilton Als, Zadie Smith, and more.

This anthology from the pages of the New Yorker 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, memoirs, 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.

Participant(s) Bio

Jelani Cobb is a historian, and a professor of journalism at Columbia University. 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 lives in New York City.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault is an acclaimed journalist with more than fifty years’ experience working as a correspondent and contributor for NBC, PBS, NPR, CNN, the New York Times, The New Yorker, and other outlets. She is the author of four nonfiction books, as well as the upcoming My People, which will be published in 2022 by HarperCollins. For her contributions to journalism, Hunter-Gault has earned two National News and Documentary Emmy Awards, two Peabody Awards, and the Black Enterprise Legacy Award, among other honors.