The Prophetic Tradition in Afro-America

West, Cornel

Prophetic modes of thought and action are dotted across the landscape of Afro-American history. I understand these modes to consist of protracted and principled struggles against forms of personal despair, intellectual dogmatism and socioeconomic oppression that foster communities of hope. Therefore the distinctive features of prophetic activity are Pascalian leaps of faith in the capacity of human beings to transform their circumstances, engage in relentless criticism and self-criticism and project visions, analyses and practices of social freedom. In this essay, I shall attempt to characterize and criticize—hence try to reactivate—the prophetic tradition in Afro-America.


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Union Theological Seminary
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March 1, 2013