Reflecting critically on the discipline of African American studies is a complicated undertaking. Making sense of the black American experience requires situating it within the larger cultural, political-economic, and ideological dynamics that shape American life. This volume moves away from privileging racial commonality as the fulcrum of inquiry and moves toward observing the quality of the accounts scholars have rendered of black American life. This book maps the changing conditions of black political practice and experience from Emancipation to Obama with excursions into the Jim Crow era, Black Power radicalism, and the Reagan revolt. Here are essays, classic and new, that define historically and conceptually discrete problems affecting black Americans as these problems have been shaped by both politics and scholarly fashion. A key goal of the book is to come to terms with the changing terrain of American life in view of major Civil Rights court decisions and legislation.