The New Black Politician

Cory Booker, Newark, and Post-Racial America

325 pages

23 halftones, 22 tables, 10 graphs

May, 2012

ISBN: 9780814732441



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Andra Gillespie is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Emory University.

All books by Andra Gillespie

At the beginning of the 21st-century, a vanguard of young, affluent black leadership has emerged, often clashing with older generations of black leadership for power. The 2002 Newark mayoral race, which featured a contentious battle between the young black challenger Cory Booker and the more established black incumbent Sharpe James, was one of a series of contests in which young, well-educated, moderate black politicians challenged civil rights veterans for power. In The New Black Politician, Andra Gillespie uses Newark as a case study to explain the breakdown of racial unity in black politics, describing how black political entrepreneurs build the political alliances that allow them to be more diversely established with the electorate.
Based on rich ethnographic data from six 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 that both groups harbor different visions of how to achieve those goals and what those goals will look like once achieved. This, she argues, leads to class conflict and a very public breakdown in black political unity, providing further evidence of the futility of identifying a single cadre of leadership for black communities. Full of provocative interviews with many of the key players in Newark, including Cory Booker himself, this book provides an on the ground understanding of contemporary Black and mayoral politics.
Article: Black politics, speaks to Andra Gillespie


  • "Interesting, thoughtful, and broad in its revelation of the post-racial black politician."

    —Andrea Simpson, author of The Tie That Binds

  • The New Black Politician is a telling and insightful analysis of the rise of Newark's city mayor Cory Booker, arguably one of the nation's most interesting and visible city mayors. Andra Gillespie goes deep into the inner working of that city's politics. She derives political meaning from what to causal observers looks like urban pandemonium. This remarkable book will have a significant impact on the study of black politics and, more broadly, on urban politics.”

    —Wilbur C. Rich, author of David Dinkins and New York City Politics: Race, Images, and the Media

  • “In The New Black Politician, Gillespie confirms her place as a leading scholar of racial politics. Using a lengthy period of close observation, Gillespie provides an astute account of Mayor Cory Booker's experience in juggling the cross-pressures at work in Newark, New Jersey. Newark proves in Gillespie's able hands to be an illuminating case of tensions between generations, between classes, and, above all, between high aspirations and a difficult reality.”

    —Clarence N. Stone, author of Regime Politics: Governing Atlanta, 1946-1988

  • “A careful, detailed and penetrating case-study of one of the leading African American politicians of the post-civil rights era, this groundbreaking work will allow political science students to compare and contrast both his electoral strategies with his administrative strategies in trying to revitalize this moribund urban area. The nature and scope of this unparalleled scholarly work is bold, imaginative, and timely.”

    —Hanes Walton, Jr., co-author of The African American Electorate

  • "While centered on Booker's political life (his 1998 election to the Newark Municipal Council, when he defeated incumbent George Branch; his defeat in his 2002 run against Mayor Sharpe James, who held the office for 20 years (1986-2006); his successful campaign in 2006; his re-election in 2010), Gillespie fleshes out her account through reviews of relevant contemporary political theory and scores of interviews with largely political figures whose opinions about Booker are quite varied. The illustrations of campaign posters enliven and enrich the text."

    Publishers Weekly

  • "The New Black Politician will be of interest to all who ponder [Cory] Booker's political future in New Jersey."

    —Kathleen Daley, Star-Ledger Entertainment Desk

  • "Anybody with an acute interest in the future of black politics in "postracial" America should absolutely read this book."

    —Nick Peruffo, The Trentorian

  • "The underlying study on which Andra Gillespie hangs this portrait of Booker is the phenomenon she labels the 'entrepreneurial black politician' who attempts to move out the old guard—the black officeholders who forged victories based on the fruits of the civil rights movement."

    Newark Star Ledger

  • "Gillespie has performed the difficult task of objectively evaluating her personal acquaintances in a way that adds to the understanding of urban politics in general."


  • “[…] Gillespie provides a noteworthy contribution to the scholarship of deracialization among Black politicians.  Her work is certain to spark much debate about the dilemmas and implications of Black candidates running against each other in minority-majority jurisdictions—all while attempting to maintain true to the interests of the communities they serve.” 

    National Political Science Review