Listen to this story
This Day In History: June 2nd
Scholar, author and professor are just a few of the titles Dr. Cornel West, also known as Brother West, has managed to hold over the course of his career. West rose to popularity during his time on the lecture circuit at universities such as Harvard and became a highly sought-after political commentator and author.
Cornel Ronald West was born on June 2, 1953, in Tulsa, Oklahoma and his family relocated to Sacramento, California. Education was an important part of his childhood, due to his mother’s role as an elementary school teacher. West attended Harvard University and graduated magna cum laude. By 1980, he earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in philosophy from Princeton.
He began his career as a lecturer and transitioned into teaching at Harvard, New York City’s Union Theological Seminary, the University of Paris and Yale University’s Divinity School. In addition to teaching, West also began publishing books. In 1982, he released Prophesy Deliverance: An Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity and followed up with other works like Prophetic Fragments: Illuminations of the Crisis in American Religion and Culture in 1988. His writings addressed racial and sociopolitical phenomena. West accepted a religion professorship at Princeton University and he also became a professor of African American studies at Harvard.
Over the course of his career, West has authored 20 books and edited 13. His most popular works include Race Matters (1993), Democracy Matters (2004) and Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud (2010). In 2014, he released Black Prophetic Fire, which provided insight into the legacies of nineteenth and twentieth-century African American leaders.
Outside of academia, West has explored different creative outlets such as acting and poetry. West released the spoken word album, Sketches of My Culture, in 2001. In 2003, West made his film debut in The Matrix Reloaded and appeared in the final film of the trilogy, The Matrix Revolutions (2003). In 2010, West began co-hosting, Smiley & West, a radio show with Tavis Smiley.
Fans of West are now able to access his teachings through a partnership with MasterClass.com. Through his philosophy masterclass, West teaches participants “how to think more deeply, connect more closely, and live a more fruitful and meaningful life.”