‘The New Black Politician’ Examines Groundbreaking Era in American Politics

ATLANTA – In the just-released book “The New Black Politician: Cory Booker, Newark and Post-Racial America”, Emory University political scientist Andra Gillespie uses Newark, N.J., and its mayor, Cory Booker, as a case study to explain the breakdown of racial unity in black politics. “The New Black Politician” presents a challenge to the current understanding of the connection between racial solidarity, voter choice and policy preferences.

Newark’s Booker – one of the nation’s most visible city mayors – is more than a singular success story. His rise to power represents a dramatic shift in American politics as a vanguard of young, affluent black leadership has emerged the past 15 years. These “new black politicians” often clash with older generations of African American leadership for power while reshaping municipal and national politics in the process.

The 2002 Newark mayoral race, a contentious battle between the young challenger Booker and the more established incumbent Sharpe James – is one of a series of contests in which young, well-educated, moderate black politicians have challenged civil rights veterans for power.

Gillespie examines the decade-long evolution of African American politics in New Jersey’s largest city and its meaning for American politics. The book features first-hand observation and interviews with many of Newark’s key players (including Cory Booker), and provides a current understanding of contemporary African American and mayoral politics.

Booker’s rise to power demonstrates how younger African Americans seeking office often build political alliances that circumvent the traditional black political establishment, and deliberately work to establish more diverse appeal, outreach and power centers among the electorate. It was with such a multi-cultural coalition that President Barack Obama, originally a political outsider, propelled himself to the White House, Gillespie says.

Based on eight years of intense and ongoing research, Gillespie shows that while both poor and affluent blacks pay lip service to racial cohesion and to continuing the goals of the Civil Rights Movement, the reality is both groups harbor different visions of how to achieve those goals and what those goals will look like once achieved.

In the book, Gillespie explains why Booker lost in 2002, how he won in 2006 and was reelected in 2010. She provides a framework of advice for younger African Americans considering forays into politics.