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Cornel West

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One of the foremost black American scholars and intellectuals of the late 20th century and new millennium, Cornel West entered the realm of popular music with spoken word recordings that displayed his fiery radicalism and put forth his philosophies on race and religion. Born 1953 in Tulsa, OK, West played an active part in civil rights struggles, entrenched on the front lines of the black student movements of the '70s and '80s, both as a student and a professor. Over the course of his academic career, he has obtained degrees and professorships at Yale, Princeton, and Harvard universities and has published several essays and books, including his best-seller, Race Matters. During his tenure at Harvard from 1994 to 2002, he was revered by many students for his unconventional pedagogy, teaching some of the university's most popular courses. His unorthodoxy was exemplified by his first spoken word album, Sketches of My Culture (2001). Very speech-oriented, the effort used a wide variety of black and urban music, ranging from gospel to hip-hop, to get across his ideas. Harvard University president Lawrence Summers disapproved of the CD, embroiling West in a public quarrel over his teaching methods and abilities. The dispute prompted West to return to Princeton as a professor for its African-American Studies program in 2002. Five years later, West came forward with a second outing, Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations, which recalled the historical rebelliousness inherent in hip-hop music and youth culture. Among several other rap and R&B artists, André 3000, Prince, Gerald LeVert, KRS-One, Dave Hollister, and Killer Mike all made guest appearances on the political album.

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02 June 1953 in Tulsa, OK

Years Active:

'80s, '90s, '00s