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Dr. Michael Eric Dyson

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson

NEH Centennial Chair, Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN
Dr. Michael Eric Dyson Dr. Michael Eric Dyson

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 PhD 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 Distinguished University Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies, College of Arts & Science, and Distinguished University Professor of Ethics and Society, The Divinity School, and NEH Centennial Chair at Vanderbilt University. Dyson is one of America’s premier public intellectuals and author of over 25 books, including seven New York Times bestsellers. Dyson’s esteemed literary output won him the 2020 Langston Hughes Medal, which in the past was awarded to James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and August Wilson. Dyson has also won an American Book Award, a Southern Book Award, and two NAACP Image Awards.

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 nonfiction.

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 most frank 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 in 2018.”

Dyson’s 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.”  In December 2020, published 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.”

Dyson’s book Entertaining Race: Performing Blackness in America, was published in November 2021. Kirkus Review says, “Dyson writes with a broad, well-learned view of Black history” in what it concludes is a “thoughtful, elegantly argued contribution to the literature of Black lives in America.” Publisher’s Weekly says that “Dyson maintains a firm grip on the cultural moment and offers razor-sharp insights into American history, politics, and art. This is a feast of insights.” The New York Times says that “Dyson’s work clearly comes from a deep well of love — for his country, for his people and for the intellectual and cultural figures he admires…Known for extemporizing full speeches and sermons without notes, Dyson plays in the space between preacher and poet…There is also a stylistic performance taking place within the pages of the book: that of the public Black intellectual demonstrating that he is erudite yet still hip, referencing philosophers and theorists like Kant, Derrida and Foucault while also name-checking rappers like Nas and Jay-Z….Dyson’s fans may relish…his more signature style, full of the alliteration and anaphora that mark the best of Black oratory and written word.” The book was named an Amazon editor’s pick for best books in November, a Kirkus Review best book of the year, and a Kirkus Review best book on race in 2021.

Dyson’s most recent book, Unequal: A Story of America, published in May 2022, is a volume for young readers penned with renowned writer and editor Marc Favreau. Publishers Weekly says that this “searing look at attempts to block students ‘from learning the truth of inequality in the United States’ encourages readers to acknowledge the deep-seated presence of structural racism in American. A must-read and must-teach.” And Kirkus Review says that this “accessible, riveting collection will inspire readers to claim responsibility for helping to ensure that the U.S. one day lives up to its most ethical professed ideas.”

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 – 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 journalist, media commentator and host, on every major radio and television show, from NPR’s Morning Edition, The Takeaway, and Fresh Air with Terry Gross, to television’s Meet the Press, Face the Nation, Today Show, Good Morning America, and Real Time with Bill Maher. Dyson has served as a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, and as a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and a political analyst for MSNBC.  Dyson has also frequently appeared on CNN and Fox News to offer political and cultural analysis. Dyson has even found time to make guest appearances on scripted cable and network television programs such as Soul Food, The 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.”

Speaking Engagements

Sunday, February 26, 2023 Sunday, September 26, 2021 Sunday, January 10, 2021 Sunday, November 03, 2019 Sunday, September 16, 2018 Sunday, September 24, 2017