Jordan’s essays illustrate one of the more serious social concepts to emerge from the furor of the 1960’s, the insistence that the political is personal and that to attempt any kind of disengagement is deceptive. Jordan does not present herself as either a spokesperson or a pundit. Rather, she writes in the spirit of an alert citizen of a democratic state trying to refine what she has called “the starter tablet of laws” that is the American Constitution. In the “Alternative Commencement Address” delivered at Dartmouth College, she declares that the history of the United States is “the history of a democratic republic under torturous but steadfast construction” and that attacks on the protections and rights guaranteed by the Constitution and its amendments are assaults on “the basis for liberty and the well-being of all of our lives.” One of the most crucial points of the entire book is that African American citizens have responded to and worked for these essential rights as steadfastly as any other Americans. Contrary to the inaccurate depiction of black people as somehow outside the process of American life, she describes her parents as living in America “full of faith,” “eager Black immigrants . . . as grateful and loyal” as any other arrivals “whose trust in the democratic promise of the mainland has never been reckoned with, fully, or truly reciprocated.” Her goal in these essays is to keep the faith in the possibilities of...
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