Articulate While Black
Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S.
H. Samy Alim, Geneva Smitherman, and Foreward by Michael Eric Dyson
Reviews and Awards
"Articulate While Black brilliantly dissects the politics of language as embedded in the politics of race...The beautiful thing about the book is that it breaks down Obama's oral signifying...and helps us to navigate the complexities of Black linguistic habits and the complications of Black rhetoric writ large... Alim and Smitherman do a great deal of switching themselves, sliding from dense academic prose to streetwise vernacular, proving they are brilliant examples of the very practice they dissect...In the process, they leave little doubt about the cogency of their argument: that without being a past master of Black (American) rhetoric, Obama wouldn't be president of the United States." - Michael Eric Dyson, University Distinguished Professor of Sociology, and author of Debating Race
"A fabulously original work! Two of America's leading authorities on Black Language and Culture draw on their expertise and extensive scholarship to profoundly reshape the national conversation on race by languaging it. In complicating compliments about President Obama's "articulateness," they brilliantly analyze his artful use of language and America's response to it as a springboard to consider larger, thought-provoking questions about language, education, power and what Toni Morrison has referred to as "the cruel fallout of racism." Few sociolinguists tackle these complex issues with as much insight, sophistication, and downright directness as Alim and Smitherman. As they firmly conclude, it's time to change the game - and this book does just that." - John R. Rickford, J.E. Wallace Sterling Professor of Linguistics and the Humanities at Stanford University, and co-author of Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English
"The game done changed, and it looks like the iconic figure of Barack Hussein Obama read through the formidable critical lens of leading sociolinguists H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman. Trafficking in the very linguistic style-shifting that the duo charge President Obama with, Articulate While Black is a groundbreaking and definitive exploration of the cultural meaning of the nation's first Black President." - Mark Anthony Neal, Duke University, author of New Black Man
"Sociolinguists Alim and Smitherman bring dual backgrounds as educators and activists to this metalinguistic analysis of racially loaded cultural-linguistics controversies about Obama, or as they so deftly say, we're gonna talk about the talk about the way Barack Obama talks. Even as their style and tone reflect their command of and respect for the vernacular, their substantial research reflects an equal affinity for the professionally academic... It takes some patience to hang in with the authors' own vernacular, but the reward is a heightened sense of 'the complexity and richness of Black language' and significant insight into Obama's 'mastery of Black cultural modes of discourse' that were 'crucial to his being elected... president'." - Publishers Weekly