Journalist, educator, and diversity speaker Jelani Cobbwrites about the enormous complexity of race in America. Asrecipient of the Sidney Hillman Prize for Opinion& Analysis Journalism for hisNew Yorkercolumns, Cobb was praised for combining “the strengths of an on-the-scene reporter, a public intellectual, a teacher, a vivid writer, a subtle moralist, and an accomplished professional historian”—qualities he brings to his gripping talks.
Jelani Cobb isprominently featured in Ava Duvernay’s 13th, her Oscar-nominated documentary about the current mass incarceration of black Americans, which traces the subjectto its historical origins in the Thirteenth Amendment. “13thexplodes the ‘mythology of black criminality,’ as The New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb at one point in the film refers to the successive and successful measures undertaken by political authorities to disempower African Americans over the last three centuries” wrote The Atlantic.
Cobb also teaches in the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he recently accepted a duPont-ColumbiaAward on behalf of Duvernay for the documentary. A long-time staff writer at The New Yorker, Cobb has writtena remarkable series of articles about race, the police, and injustice. His articles include “The Anger in Ferguson,” Murders in Charleston,” and “What We Talk About When We Talk About Reparations.
”He is the author of Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress, To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic, and The Devil & Dave Chappelle and Other Essays. In awarding Cobb the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism, the jury wrote, “No one has done a better job of placing [the events in Ferguson, MO]—and similar happenings in other places like Sanford, Florida, Cleveland, Ohio and Staten Island, New York—in their broader context than Jelani Cobb. ”Further: “Cobb met the challenge of describing the turmoil in Ferguson in a way that cut through the frantic chaos of ‘breaking news’ and deepened readers’ understanding of what they were seeing, hearing, and feeling. Ferguson was not an aberration, he showed, but a microcosm of race relations in the United States—organically connected to the complicated legacy of segregation and the unpaid debts of slavery itself.”