Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

The Quotable Black Scholar: Michael Eric Dyson on the Late Michael Jackson

June 26th, 2009 by Ajuan Mance

Michael Jackson (1958 – 2009)

Jackson strikes a deep, primal chord in the human psyche, fascinating us, perhaps, because he so easily and eerily represents us, even mirrors us (all of us) at the same time. Thus, if he is not a Nietzschean √úbermensch, he is a Promethean allperson who traverses traditional boundaries that separate, categorize, and define differences: innocent/shrewd, young/old, black/white, male/female, and religious/secular.

Perhaps this is also why he frightens us. In his cosmos, Jackson is guided by a logic of experience that flees the comfortable core of life to its often untested periphery. In some senses, Jackson celebrates the dissolution of Yeats’s center and exults in the scamper for the edge. If at times his pace to the uncharted is dizzying, his achievements in the wake of his pursuit are dazzling, and at times monumental.

–Michael Eric Dyson in “Michael Jackson’s Postmodern Spirituality,” reprinted in The Michael Eric Dyson Reader


Dr. Michael Eric Dyson (b. 1958)

Biographical Notes: Michael Eric Dyson currently holds the title of University Professor at Georgetown U, in Washington, D.C. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Carson-Newman College (magna cum laude) and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University. One of the best known African American intellectuals of the late-20th and early-21st centuries, Dyson overcame a series of obstacles before discovering his true calling as a clergyman and scholar.

Born into a middle-class household in late-1950s Detroit, Dyson earned a scholarship to a prestigious Michigan preparatory school and enrolled at the age of 16. At boarding school, Dyson experienced culture shock and racist harrassment, a combination that led him to act out and rebel against his classmates. He was eventually expelled and returned to public school. By the time he completed high school he was a teen father, a welfare recipient, and a rumored gang member.

He slowly began to transform his life, and by the age of 21 he was an ordained Baptist minister with a reputation for powerful speaking skills. He entered college, and while there he discovered his love and talent for writing. Since then he has dedicated himself to sharing his unique insights on race, culture, power, and religion, through teaching, writing, and lecturing.

Professor Dyson is the author of 16 books, including: April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Death and How It Changed America (2008); Know What I Mean? (2007), a study of hip hop music and its relationship to American and African American culture; Debating Race (2007), a collection of “previously unpublished” discussions with a variety of politicians, pundits, public intellectuals and others; Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster (2006); Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost its Mind (2006); Why I Love Black Women (2004); The Michael Eric Dyson Reader (2004); Open Mike (2002); I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr. (2001); and Race Rules: Navigating the Color Line (1997).

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in African Americans, Current Events, Michael Eric Dyson, Michael Jackson, race

One Response

  1. Twin XL

    Very appropriate. Thanks for posting. MJ will be an inspiration for generations to come.