Andra Gillespie: “The Better Half: Race, Policy and Michelle Obama’s Influence in the Obama Administration”

In Uncategorized on March 29, 2010 by Ferentz Lafargue Tagged: , ,

Andra Gillespie, Assistant Professor, Political Science,
Emory University

When:       Wednesday March 31st, 12:10 – 1:30 pm

Where:      Henry Cohen Conference room, 3rd floor, 72 Fifth Avenue

Seminar:    “The Better Half:  Race, Policy and Michelle Obama’s Influence in the  Obama Administration”

Speaker Brief Bio:
Andra Gillespie is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Emory University, She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Government & Foreign Affairs and African American Studies from the University of Virginia, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She went on to earn a Master of Arts in African American Studies and a Master of Philosophy in Political Science from Yale University, where she also earned her doctorate.  She worked as an analyst for Democratic pollster Mark Mellman.  In that capacity, she contributed to the political analysis for clients such as 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, Georgia Congressmen John Barrow and Jim Marshall, and the National Education Association.

Dr. Gillespie’s current research focuses on the political leadership of the post-civil rights generation. She is the editor of the recently released Whose Black Politics? Cases in Post-Racial Black Leadership (Routledge, 2010).  She is also under contract for a book manuscript on municipal politics in Newark, New Jersey, tentatively titled Newark and the Clash of Two Black Americas: Race, Class and the Breakdown of Linked Fate, 2002-2008.

Many people concluded that Michelle Obama conferred a sense of racial authenticity to Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign and that her presence served to reassure black voters in particular. Despite the presence of Mrs. Obama in the White House, questions remain about whether Obama, who clearly used a deracialized political strategy to get elected, can deliver on policy initiatives of particular interest to black voters. In this paper, I argue that in the first year of the Obama Administration, Obama targeted few policy initiatives toward blacks. In addition, he also offered very little in the way of symbolic gestures. However, I hypothesize that Mrs. Obama engages in more substantive gestures toward blacks, freeing her husband from having to take stands on racial issues


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