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Peniel Joseph’ Views on Barack Obama Essay (Book Review)


In the book Dark Days, Bright lights: From Black Power to Barak Obama by Peniel Joseph, uncovers what most people had not seen from a historical point of view. Peniel (2010) examines how President Baraka Obama rose to power and became president of the US. The author views Obama’s successful ascend to power as result of activism by black males. Throughout, the authors talks about three men namely: Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, and Baraka Hussein Obama (Penile 2010, 26).

The author provides a background of Barak Hussein Obama who was abandoned by his father, raised by a single mother, and later sent to live with his grandmother. In fact, Baraka Hussein Obama was among the first men to benefit from Black power activism (Peniel 2010, 23). This book shows the contribution made by male gender towards attaining democracy in the United States.

The first chapter of the book dubbed “Re-imagining Black power movement” looks at Obama’s rise to power as a defining moment in the US. Obama’s rise to presidency paves way to multiculturalism and diversity in the US.

Penile (2010) explains that Obama is a son to a Kenyan immigrant and a European descendant; he has an Asian sister, two black daughters and a white grandmother. Considering that Obama has relatives with different culture, this notion brings mainstreaming and contributes to Obama being accepted by different people in the US.

The author perceives Black power as an international force developed by Students, trade unionists, and tenants’ rights activists (Penile 2010, 77). Intellectuals including artists and politicians influenced by the ideas of Malcolm X and Carmichael also formed part of this group. Joseph Peniel explains how the work of Black power in the US helped in expansion of American democracy. He adds that, out of the Black power activism, participatory democracy was born.

This was necessary for American dream. Indeed, Abraham Lincoln had a dream for “government of the people, by the people, for the people” (Penile 2010, 166). Motivated by this message, activists like Martin Luther King, Fredrick Douglass and others demanded for abolition of the slavery system in the US. The author associates democracy gained at this time with the existence of Obama in the white house.

Penile (2010) points out that, Fredrick Douglass and Martin Luther had qualities similar to those of Carmichael and Malcolm X. Because of these qualities, democracy and mainstreaming of all middle class Americans was acquired. Black power was not a movement restricted for Black Americans only. However, Black power was a movement that led to integration and mainstreaming of all middle class people from all races.

Carmichael coined the term “Black power”, which meant unity of people in the service of elected political power (Penile 2010, 365). The Black power sought for a new political background that would ensure eradication of brutality, poverty, conflict, and hopelessness. The author observes that Carmichael and Martin Luther had great concerns for people. Carmichael had a passion for social equality and healing of racial wounds for the southern people.

In the chapter “Stokely Carmichael and America in the 1960s,” Peniel covers the life of Carmichael in a holistic manner. Joseph Peniel brings a new perspective, which many history writers had not achieved without issues of discrimination. He gives an insight on Carmichael’s life as a local organizer and his international activism (Penile 2010, 211).

In the chapter “Malcolm, Harlem, and American Democracy,” Joseph Peniel examines the life of Malcolm X beyond what people knew in the beginning. He describes Malcolm as a competent social organizer and an international activist. He also shows Malcolm’s relationships with writers such as John Henrick Clarke, James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, May Angelou, Albert Cleage, and Rosa Guy (Penile 2010, 312).

Penile (2010) talks of how Malcolm changed his name to Hajj Malik El Shabazz. He observes that apart from Malcolm being an activist in the US he also had a lot of international influence. Malcolm X attended major international events such as the Afro-Asian conference in Indonesia and the New York visit of Cuban president Fidel Castro.

Peniel (2010) explains the connection between the cold war and liberation of Africans and African Americans. According to Penile (2010), the liberation was attributed to Malcolm’s international politics. Apart from Malcolm’s international influence, his cultural and scholarly leadership changed America after the cold war.

Malcolm worked hard to redefine democracy in the US. It is his leadership style and democratic change in the US that has given power to African-American leadership over the years. Malcom’s efforts as an activist laid a foundation to the rise of the first black president in 2009.

In conclusion, the book Dark Days, Bright lights looks at Black power activism from 1960s until the time when the first black president was elected to power. The author reveals how the Black power contributed to change in democracy and mainstreaming of people from all races in the US.

This book portrays Barak Obama as a fulfillment of Americans icons’ dream such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther among others. Black power did not only advocate for end of the slavery system but also for eradication of hopelessness, racial conflicts and cruelty in the society. Black power sought to liberate all people from class discrimination by redefining democracy and advocating for class and gender mainstreaming.

Works Cited

Penile, Joseph. Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama. Sidney: ReadHowYouWant.com, Limited, 2010.

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IvyPanda. (2020, April 28). Peniel Joseph' Views on Barack Obama. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/peniel-joseph-views-on-barack-obama/

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Peniel Joseph' Views on Barack Obama." April 28, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/peniel-joseph-views-on-barack-obama/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Peniel Joseph' Views on Barack Obama'. 28 April.

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