Generational Shift of Black Leaders the Rising Generation of Leaders Comes from Diverse Backgrounds

Article excerpt

WHEN Benjamin Hooks retires this month as executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the event will mark another milestone in a generational shift that is taking place in black leadership in the United States. Those mentioned to succeed him - including Randall Robinson, executive director of TransAfrica, and Jesse Jackson - are half a generation younger than Mr. Hooks, who is 68.

Hooks belongs to a generation of black Americans who wrought a historic civil rights revolution in the country. Now, many major figures of that generation either are gone (Thurgood Marshall most recently) or - like Hooks - are what Washington Post columnist Juan Williams calls "graying revolutionaries."

As their ranks thin, a new generation of African-Americans is assuming positions of leadership not only in civil rights organizations, but also in politics, business, academia, and the arts.

While black scholars agree that this transition is occurring, they point out that the leadership structure in black America is changing in other respects as well.

"The civil rights movement embedded reforms in political and legal institutions," says Prof. Ron Walters, chairman of the political science department at Howard University in Washington. "Consequently, black leadership has shifted in part from ministers and civil rights activists to government officials."

Arvarh Strickland, a professor of history at the University of Missouri, Columbia, similarly notes that whereas the earlier black leaders came heavily from churches, today many leaders are coming from business and the professions as blacks have found greater opportunity in those fields. …

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