Until Bayard Rustin’s lecture in the fall of 1962, no other person had brought author Philip Reiss so far toward gaining an understanding of what it was like for African-Americans living as second-class citizens in this nation, which sponsors a pledge calling for “liberty and justice for all.”
The Rustin lecture became Reiss’s point of departure on his quest to learn more fully of the African-American experience; it prompted him to become aware and to truly understand that the entire nation shared responsibility for the dilemma of deep-seated injustices that African-Americans constantly faced. In Blue Eyes on African-American History, Reiss provides an account of a white professor’s learning and teaching about African-American history from 1970 to 1999 at a SUNY community college.
Reiss includes specifics of how and why he took on the challenge of teaching African-American history and discusses the historical events he deems critical for understanding of that history. His study relates the impact of economic exploitation facilitated by racism and how these twin evils are central to the African-American historical narrative.
Along with factual history, this volume intersperses some of Resiss’s experiences as a young boy, as a young adult serving in the military, and as a professor teaching his course. It provides unique insight into a turbulent time in America.