Cover for West: Ebony Magazine and Lerone Bennett Jr.: Popular Black History in Postwar America. Click for larger image

Ebony Magazine and Lerone Bennett Jr.

Popular Black History in Postwar America

How Ebony educated African Americans about their own history

From its launch in 1945, Ebony magazine was politically and socially influential. However, the magazine also played an important role in educating millions of African Americans about their past. Guided by the pen of Lerone Bennett Jr., the magazine's senior editor and in-house historian, Ebony became a key voice in the popular black history revival that flourished after World War II. Its content helped push representations of the African American past from the margins to the center of the nation's cultural and political imagination.

E. James West's fresh and fascinating exploration of Ebony's political, social, and historical content illuminates the intellectual role of the iconic magazine and its contribution to African American scholarship. He also uncovers a paradox. Though Ebony provided Bennett with space to promote a militant reading of black history and protest, the magazine's status as a consumer publication helped to mediate its representation of African American identity in both past and present.

Mixing biography, cultural history, and popular memory, West restores Ebony and Bennett to their rightful place in African American intellectual, commercial, and political history.

"E. James West's book is the first major examination of Ebony as a forum for black historical discourse and the magazine's long-time executive editor Lerone Bennett Jr.'s multifaceted thought, work, and scholarship as a leading popular historian of the black past and vital contributor to the postwar black history movement. A well-researched and accessible study situated within the growing field of black intellectual history, Ebony Magazine and Lerone Bennett Jr. is a major contribution to our understanding of what West aptly calls 'popular black history.'"--Pero G. Dagbovie, author of Revisiting the Black Past: The Use and Misuse of African American history in the Twenty-First Century


E. James West is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in American History at Northumbria University.

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