Cornel Ronald West

Dr. Cornel Ronald West (1953–    ), professor of the practice of public philosophy at Harvard University and professor emeritus at Princeton University, is a philosopher, scholar, political activist, and author, who has written twenty books and edited thirteen. In addition, his voice has become familiar on CNN, in films, and in spoken word albums, as he brings to life his passion to communicate in public places the message and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—that is, a legacy of speaking the truth and bearing witness to love and justice. He was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and raised in Sacramento, California, where he was influenced by testimonials of descendants of slaves in his local Baptist church and by the political activism of members of the Black Panther Party, whose local offices were near his church. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University (1973), majoring in near Eastern languages and civilization, and earned master and doctorate degrees in philosophy from Princeton University (1980). During his career in education, he has taught philosophy, religion, and African-American studies at Harvard, Union Theological Seminary in New York, the University of Paris, the Divinity School at Yale University, and Princeton. His first book Prophecy Deliverance: An Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity was published in 1982. His major works include Race Matters (1993), The Future of the Race (1997—co-author Henry Louis Gates, Jr.), Democracy Matters (2004), and Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud (2009—memoir).

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Last modified: 27 August 2019