Home Politics ‘A Dream Deferred’ Revisited

‘A Dream Deferred’ Revisited


“The second book you publish,” Shelby Steele’s editor once told him, “is the hardest one you will ever write.” In Steele’s case, it turned out to be his best. After the publication of The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America in 1990, Steele found himself in the intellectual spotlight on the most contentious issue in the country. That experience changed his life. “Ultimately, what I found after The Content of Our Character is that people wanted more, wanted me to go further,” he told me earlier this year. “So that became the struggle. I had to go deeper to get to material and get my own thinking onto a different phase.”

The success and attention Steele received, however, came at a steep price. He was ejected from academia after a 20-year tenure at San José State University as an English professor, and he became a pariah to the post-1990s civil-rights establishment. He lost a number of friends and found that his university lectures were now routinely shouted down by students. “My career in universities sort of ended at that point, involuntarily,” he recalls. “The campus I taught on for many years sort of canceled me. I brag today [that] I was one of the first canceled people.” These unwelcome developments resulted in his second book, A Dream…

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