Bell hooks is no lone black voice

October 20, 1995

You were right to profile bell hooks as one of the outstanding black public intellectuals in the United States at this time (THES, October 13). However, it is inaccurate to describe her "as the only woman in that category alongside outspoken male academics such as . . . Cornel West . . . and Henry Louis Gates Jr".

What about Toni Morrison, Nobel Laureate, who teaches at Princeton, or Patricia Williams at Columbia Law School, or Angela Davis at U. C. Santa Cruz, or June Jordan at U. C. Berkeley? (I could list many more.) These women are all well-known "black public intellectuals," with tenured posts at major universities, who regularly comment on American public life, letters, politics and culture in academic books and journals, popular magazines and newspapers, and on television and radio, in just the way that hooks, West and Gates do. Are we allowed only one woman in this category of "black public intellectual"? And if so, why?

Also Cornel West now teaches religion and African-American Studies at Harvard - not Princeton - and has been a professor there for over a year.

Jane Shaw Research fellow in history Regents Park College, Oxford

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