Political Scientist: Hip-Hop Politicians and the Future

Jan. 31, 2013

Andra GillespieDuring a recent interview on the NPR show Tell Me More, Andra Gillespie, associate professor of political science discussed what some have called the hip-hop generation of politicians, such as President Obama and Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, NJ.

“I define this group -- I call them the third wave -- by being born after the civil rights movement, by and large, or being born so late into the civil rights movement that they really wouldn’t remember it or would have been able to participate in it,” Gillespie said. “So, by birth, they’re usually born after 1960, give or take a few years.” Gillespie said. “Most of the group was born in the late 1960s and early 1970s. And so this was a group that got to benefit for most, if not all of their lives from integration and the post-civil rights era. Their approach to politics is different, because it’s not informed by the activist politics of the 1950s and 60s.

She added that popular renderings of young Black politicians are drawn very narrowly. “It’s very male, and it also tends to focus on deracialized politicians who don’t have demonstratively deep ties to the old civil rights guard. So they’re not the children of politicians, and they’re not the children of activists who became household names. Because of that, we tend to not notice the diversity within the cohort. So there are still women who are comparably aged who are still in politics today.”

Gillespie concluded by saying that for Black politicians who have lost elections, their careers are not necessarily over: “For those who are in their 20s and early 30s who think that they have to get to the Senate by age 35 or 37 and be president by 45, I would encourage them to take a longer view.”

To read a transcript of the entire interview, which also includes Lester Spence, associate professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University, click here.

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