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A sweeping look into interracial friendship's significance in American democracy from the founding to the present.
The oppression of Blacks is America's original sin -- a sin that took root in 1619 and plagues the country to this day. Yet there have been instances of interracial bonding and friendship even in the worst of times. In Stars and Shadows
-- a term taken from Huckleberry Finn
-- Saladin Ambar analyzes
two centuries of noteworthy interracial friendships that served as windows into the state of race relations in the US and, more often than not, as models for advancing the cause of racial equality. Stars and Shadows
is the first work in American political history to offer a comprehensive overview of how friendship has come to shape the possibilities for democratic politics in America. Covering ten cases -- from Benjamin Banneker and Thomas Jefferson's ill-fated effort to navigate the limits
imposed on democracy by slavery and white supremacy, to the more hopeful stories of James Baldwin and Marlon Brando as well as Angela Davis and Gloria Steinem -- Ambar's study illuminates how friendship is critical to understanding the potential for multiracial democracy. Political leaders and
cultural figures are frequently involved in translating private feelings, relationships, and ideas, into a public ideal. Friendships and their meaning are therefore a significant part of any effort to shape public or elite opinion.
The symbolism inherent in interracial friendship has always been readily apparent, down to the powerful example of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, who were not only allied politicians, but most importantly, friends. Ambar weaves a set of interlocking stories that help create a working theory of
multiracial democracy that demands more of us as citizens: a commitment to engage one another and to engage our past with even greater courage and trust. Such gestures are a vital part of the story of how race and America have been shaped. Stars and Shadows
helps explain America's enduring
difficulty in making friends of citizens across the color line -- and why the narrative of racial friendship matters.