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Lessie B. Branch

Aug 17, 2018

Optimism at All Costs

Black Attitudes, Activism, and Advancement in Obama's America

University of Massachusetts Press 2018

purchase at bookshop.org Optimism at All Costs: Black Attitudes, Activism, and Advancement in Obama's America (University of Massachusetts Press, 2018) takes as its point of departure and central preoccupation the notion of “paradoxical ebullience,” by which author Lessie B. Branch means the optimism expressed by African Americans during the presidency of Barack Obama despite a lack of socioeconomic gains (and some notable reversals) during the same period. Branch’s argument around what she considers unwarranted optimism is premised on the idea that during the Obama era, African Americans bought into an elite discourse that was a departure from the discursive norms of the 20th-century Civil Rights movement, and whose leaders discouraged optimism. Both Branch and leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. see outsized optimism as undermining the collective action necessary for meaningful social change.
Mireille Djenno is the African Studies Librarian at Indiana University. She can be reached at mdjenno@indiana.edu

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