Shelby Steele

Shelby Steele

Bradley Prize recipient Shelby Steele is a Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.  Previously, he taught literature at San Jose State University.  His poignant and challenging thinking on American race relations, social culture, and identity politics has had a profound influence on mainstream attitudes about the roles of education, families, and character in overcoming the legacies of slavery and segregation.
A cogently contrarian commentator, his first big book was The Content of Our Character:  A New Vision of Race in America, which won a National Book Critics Circle annual award for the finest books published in English.  He has also authored A Dream Deferred:  The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America, White Guilt:  How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era and A Bound Man:  Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can’t Win.

As well, Steele is a regular contributor to the op-ed pages of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and he is a contributing editor to Harper’s Magazine.

“The great promise of the United States of America lies in the wonderful interplay between individual freedom and individual responsibility,” he told The American Enterprise in a 2006 interview.  “That’s the secret of our greatness; it always has been, and it always will be.  That’s why I hate to see identity politics come in, because then we’re evaluated on the color of our skin, or the group we’re supposed to belong to. If America loses that, then we’re in trouble.”

In 1991, Steele won an Emmy Award, a Writer’s Guild Award, and the San Francisco Film Festival Award for his work on the Public Broadcasting System documentarySeven Days in Bensonhurst, too.  In 1994, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal.

Steele serves on the boards of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research’s Center for the New American Community and the American Academy for Liberal Education.  Born in Chicago, he holds a B.A. from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Ia., an M.A. from Southern Illinois University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Utah.