Study Guide

Reverend Jeremiah Wright in A More Perfect Union

By Barack Obama

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Reverend Jeremiah Wright

When Jeremiah Wright was born in 1941, the world was going through a period of crazy, violent change—World War II, a.k.a. the period in history that your uncle spends all his time reading about.

The 1940s and the decades that followed were characterized by conflicts across the world, and those skirmishes, big and small, affected the temperature of other national issues—particularly those around racial discrimination.

Now, Reverend Wright would've come of age smack in the middle of all this fun stuff. He likely would have vivid and no-so-fond memories of race riots and violence on the evening news. He would've heard stories in his community—and yes, in his church—that painted a bleak and frightening picture for young Black people in America, and especially for young Black men, who could go off and die for their country while facing discrimination from their white brothers in arms.

He recognized the inequalities all around him, and his point of view is a product of his experiences. As a pastor with an African-American congregation, Reverend Wright undoubtedly saw how difficult things still were for Black people—and whatever your opinion on his comments, there's no denying the lingering inequalities. That frustration directly informed the various sermons he delivered from the pulpit on Sunday mornings. The anger was real because the disparities were real, and some of his congregants believed it was the impassioned truth-telling that really ruffled feathers.

That's the thing about this history, though—Reverend Wright's frame of reference was defined by a period of ruffled feathers. Change happened only when someone had the courage to say the things that would anger a lot of people, and for better or worse, that is how he'll be remembered in connection with Barack Obama.

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