Public Intellectual & Best-Selling Author

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson

At a glance:

Named one of the 150 most powerful African Americans by Ebony magazine, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, an American Book Award recipient and two-time NAACP Image Award winner, “is reshaping what it means to be a public intellectual by becoming the most visible black academic of his time.”

Michael Eric Dyson is one of the nation’s most renowned professors, gifted writers, inspiring preachers, knowledgeable lecturers, and prominent media personalities. As a teacher who earned a Ph.D. in Religion from Princeton University, Dyson has taught at some of the nation’s most distinguished universities, including Brown, UNC-Chapel Hill, Columbia, DePaul, the University of Pennsylvania, and Georgetown University. He is presently NEH Centennial Chair, Distinguished University Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies, College of Arts & Science, and Distinguished University Professor of Ethics and Society, The Divinity School, Vanderbilt University. Dyson is one of America’s premier public intellectuals and author of 24 books, including seven New York Times bestsellers, and is a contributing editor for the ESPN website The Undefeated, and a political analyst for MSNBC.

Dyson has written bestselling volumes on Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, 2Pac, Marvin Gaye, Bill Cosby, and Barack Obama. Among his notable publications are Reflecting Black: African American Cultural Criticism, his pioneering book of black cultural studies, I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr., his first book on the civil rights icon that probed his radical dimensions, Holler if You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur, which, according to Publisher’s Weekly helped to prove that hip hop books are commercially viable, and Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?, which helped to renew a conversation on class in Black America. Dyson’s book on Cosby, and his popular volume, Why I Love Black Women, both won prestigious NAACP Image Awards for non-fiction.

Dyson’s New York Times bestselling The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America, has been described by the New York Times as “an interpretive miracle” and was a finalist for the prestigious 2016 Kirkus Prize. His New York Times bestselling Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, was called by the New York Times,” one of the frankest and searing discussions on race…a deeply serious, urgent book, which should take its place in the tradition of Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and King’s Why We Can’t Wait.” The book won the 2018 Southern Book Prize. Dyson’s Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster won the American Book Award. Dyson’s New York Times bestseller What Truth Sounds Like: RFK, James Baldwin and Our Unfinished Conversation on Race in America, has been called by Kirkus Review “an incisive look at the role of politicians, artists, intellectuals, and activists in confronting racial injustice and effecting change,” and an “eloquent response to an urgent – and still-unresolved – dilemma.” The book was named by the Washington Post as one of the “50 notable works of nonfiction.”

His book, JAY-Z: Made in America, was also a New York Times bestseller. The Washington Post, (which named the book one of the 50 notable works of nonfiction in 2019), said that the “eminent cultural critic delivers a fleshed-out portrait of one of the country’s biggest rappers – and one of its biggest self-made men,” and that Dyson “writes with the affection of a fan but the rigor of an academic.” The book won Dyson an African American Literary Award as “Author of the Year.” Dyson’s most recent book is the national bestseller Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America, which Robin DiAngelo calls a “searing cry for racial justice from one of our nation’s greatest thinkers and most compelling prophets.” Kirkus Review says it is a “sweeping overview of racism in America” and a “timely, fervent message from an important voice,” while Publishers Weekly says that it is “[r]ich with feeling and insight, this elegiac account hits home.” NPR Book Review says that “The writing is smart and the research that informs it is great, but what makes this an important book is Dyson’s voice, which is strong but always pregnant with frustration, pain, admiration and, ultimately, hope.”

As a preacher and sometime pastor for the last 40 years, Dyson – who was licensed and ordained at Detroit’s historic Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church under the legendary pastoral ministry of Dr. Frederick Sampson, twice named by Ebony magazine one of the nation’s 15 greatest black preachers – has mounted many of the nation’s most noted pulpits to deliver sermons, from Manhattan’s The Riverside Church to Brooklyn’s Concord Baptist Church of Christ, from Dallas’s Friendship West Baptist Church to Richmond’s St. Paul Baptist Church, from Harlem’s First Corinthian Baptist Church to Memphis’ Christ Missionary Baptist Church, and from Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church to Detroit’s Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, and his present home church, the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

Dyson has lectured across the country, and around the world, in many of the best colleges and universities, and in public theaters and auditoriums, and for many corporations and unions. He has also served for the last 30 years as a media commentator and host, on every major radio and television show, from NPR’s Morning EditionThe Takeaway, and Fresh Air with Terry Gross, to television’s Meet the PressFace the NationToday ShowGood Morning America, and Real Time with Bill Maher, and as a political analyst on MSNBC, CNN and Fox News. Dyson has even found time to make guest appearances on scripted cable and network television programs such as Soul FoodThe Game and Black-ish. While feminist author Naomi Wolf calls Dyson “the ideal public intellectual of our times,” writer Nathan McCall captures it best when he says that Dyson “is a street fighter in suit and tie.”

  • In Caricature: Racial Profiling & Its Impact On Black America

    While America has made strides towards true equality amongst varying ethnic groups, there are still some glaring disparities. Recent events, including the arrest of Henry Gates Jr. in his own home, serve as a reminder that racial profiling still exists. Not only does profiling degrade entire groups of people, but it stifles growth and perpetuates negative stereotypes.

    In his keynote speech, "In Caricature: Racial Profiling and its Impact on Black America," public intellectual and best-selling author Michael Eric Dyson will answer three central questions surrounding racial profiling and its impact on minority communities:

    1. How are minority students responding?
    2. How should minorities respond and what are their responsibilities?
    3. What rights do we have?

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