Cornel R. West, Ph.D.
Photo by: Brian Velenchenko

Cornel R. West, Ph.D.
Class of 1943 University Professor of Religion
Princeton University
>> website

Cornel West has been described as a man who plays two roles. First, he is a highly regarded scholar of religion, philosophy, and African-American studies. Formerly a university professor (a position held by only 17 of 7,000 faculty) at Harvard, he has now returned to Princeton, where he taught from 1988 to 1994. Second, he is described as an "intellectual provocateur” outside of the academic world, appearing in lecture halls, on television, at protest rallies, on his own rap CD’s, and in the "Matrix" sequels.
In his scholarly work, West focuses on the area where religious thought, social theory, and pragmatic philosophy meet. His most influential book, The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism, is a history of pragmatism from Emerson to the present. His book Race Matters sold nearly 400,000 copies and influenced a national dialogue on race. More recently, he has co-authored books on public policy issues, The Future of American Progressivism, The War Against Parents, and Democracy Matters, and African American Religious Thought: An Anthology, co-authored with Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.

West's influences range from European philosophy to the black church and the Black Panthers. He also sees his parents at the root of his character and his activism. His mother was a teacher, his father a civil servant, and they brought him up in an atmosphere of progress, religion, and love.  His teaching and research interests include philosophy of religion and cultural criticism and his current projects include a book entitled "The Tragic, the Comic, and the Political," an examination of the cultural nexus between Anton Chekov and John Coltrane.

West graduated from Harvard University magna cum laude and earned his Ph.D. degree in philosophy at Princeton in 1980. His political and social work includes serving as honorary Chair of the Democratic Socialists of America, participating in President Clinton's National Conversation on Race, and advising on Al Sharpton's Presidential exploratory committee. He is the recipient of the American Book Award, and has received more than 20 honorary degrees.