Robert C. Smith’s autobiography, From the Bayou to the Bay, is revelatory. It is a primer on the requirements for becoming a first-tier Black intellectual in the United States during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Black scholars share time and space with a wide range of colleagues, but they inhabit a different world from scholars who are not Black. Black scholars have created a world that is sui generis, distinct from the intellectual mainstream. Black political scientists deliberately created an organization unconnected to the American Political Science Association (APSA). Its name is the National Conference of Black Political Scientists (NCOBPS).

Before the creation of NCOBPS in 1969, APSA had no panels, no conferences, no courses, and no concentrations on Black politics. The subject did not exist. That absence did not deter Robert C. Smith’s intellectual curiosity. He was born and raised in Louisiana, one of thirteen...

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