At a time when almost all African American college students
attended black colleges, philosopher William Fontaine was the only
black member of the University of Pennsylvania faculty-and quite
possibly the only black member of any faculty in the Ivy League.
Little is known about Fontaine, but his predicament was common to
African American professionals and intellectuals at a critical time
in the history of civil rights and race relations in the United
Black Philosopher, White Academy is at once a biographical
sketch of a man caught up in the issues and the dilemmas of race in
the middle of the last century; a portrait of a salient aspect of
academic life then; and an intellectual history of a period in
African American life and letters, the discipline of philosophy,
and the American academy. It is also a meditation on the sources
available to a practicing historian and, frustratingly, the sources
that are not. Bruce Kuklick stays close to the slim packet of
evidence left on Fontaine's life and career but also strains
against its limitations to extract the largest possible insights
into the life of the elusive Fontaine.
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