Race and the Obama Administration

Substance, symbols, and hope

By Andra Gillespie

Race and the Obama Administration


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-0502-8
  • Pages: 256
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £15.99
  • Published Date: January 2019
  • BIC Category: HISTORY / Social History, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / Elections, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies, POLITICAL SCIENCE / American Government / Executive Branch, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / African American Studies, Political science & theory, Ethnic studies, Society & social sciences / Elections & referenda, Society & social sciences / Public administration, Society & social sciences / Political science & theory, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Social discrimination & inequality, Society & social sciences / Ethnic minorities & multicultural studies, Society & social sciences / Black & Asian studies, Central / national / federal government, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Discrimination & Race Relations, US Politics, United States of America, USA, Relating to African American people, Public administration


The election of Barack Obama marked a critical point in American political and social history. Did the historic election of a black president actually change the status of blacks in the United States? Did these changes (or lack thereof) inform blacks' perceptions of the President?

This book explores these questions by comparing Obama's promotion of substantive and symbolic initiatives for blacks to efforts by the two previous presidential administrations. By employing a comparative analysis, the reader can judge whether Obama did more or less to promote black interests than his predecessors. Taking a more empirical approach to judging Barack Obama, this book hopes to contribute to current debates about the significance of the first African American presidency. It takes care to make distinctions between Obama's substantive and symbolic accomplishments and to explore the significance of both.


1 The triple bind
Part I: Substance
2 How he did: the racial successes, failures and impact of the Obama presidency
3 Executive orders
4 Winks, nods and day-to-day bureaucratic work: a case study of three Cabinet departments
Part II: Symbols
5 Race, appointments and descriptive diversity
6 Rhetoric and racial eruptions
7 Artistic representation and the presidency: an examination of PBS performances
8 Michelle Obama
Part III: Hope
9 Public opinion
10 Race, Obama and the fourth quarter
Conclusion: was it worth it?


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

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