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Corey D. Fields

Black Elephants in the Room

The Unexpected Politics of African American Republicans

University of California 2016

New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Political ScienceNew Books in PoliticsNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network November 21, 2016 James P. Stancil II

The 2016 election cycle will be remembered as one for the history books. Many people are left asking questions as to what happened to...

The 2016 election cycle will be remembered as one for the history books. Many people are left asking questions as to what happened to lead to such an expected outcome, while still others are left wondering after such a tumultuous and divisive campaign season what is next. There were a significant number of African American religious and political leaders who emerged during this presidential campaign representing the GOP than can easily be remembered in recent years. Even before the most recent election in November, many in the African American community felt underserved by the Democrats, and now there are some who have even more fear about what to expect from President-elect Trump and the new Republican-dominated three branches of the federal government. But not everyone.

In his book Black Elephants in the Room: The Unexpected Politics of African American Republicans (University of California Press, 2016), Corey D. Fields considers how race structures the political behavior of African American Republicans and discusses the dynamic relationship between race and political behavior in the purported “post-racial” context of US politics. Drawing on vivid first-person accounts, the book sheds light on the different ways black identity structures African Americans’ membership in the Republican Party.

What do you think of when you hear about an African American Republican? Are they heroes fighting against the expectation that all blacks must vote democratic? Are they Uncle Toms or sellouts, serving as traitors to their race? What is it really like to be a black person in the Republican Party?

Moving past rhetoric and politics, we begin to see the everyday people working to reconcile their commitment to black identity with their belief in Republican principles. And at the end, we learn the importance of understanding both the meanings African Americans attach to racial identity and the political contexts in which those meanings are developed and expressed.

Dr. Fields is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Faculty Affiliate at the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University. This is his first book.


James Stancil is an independent scholar, freelance journalist, and the President and CEO of Intellect U Well, Inc. a Houston-area non-profit dedicated to increasing the joy of reading and media literacy in young people.