Next week, Barack Obama will put his hand on the Lincoln Bible and be sworn in on Martin Luther King Day, almost exactly 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. Yet for all the civil rights symbolism, the president is not universally praised in the African American community. Critics like scholar Cornel West — who calls Obama a “Rockerfeller Republican in blackface” — note that the president spoke less about race in his first two years in office than any Democratic president since 1961 and that people of color have disproportionately suffered economically on his watch.

What is the real record of Barack Obama when it comes to African Americans? What might he accomplish in his second term to narrow minority disparities in health, wealth, education and incarceration? How much does a history of deprivation and discrimination continue to explain those disparities? And in an age of mass downward mobility, can policies that help minorities also benefit the majority?

These and other vital questions are addressed in the latest Washington Monthly by a lineup of authoritative writers and experts, including Taylor Branch, Nicholas Lemann, Elijah Anderson, Glenn Loury, and Isabelle Sawhill.

Read the cover package “Race, History, and Obama’s Second Term.”

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Paul Glastris

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly. A former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, he is writing a book on America’s involvement in the Greek War of Independence.