The Scholar and the Struggle

Lawrence Reddick's Crusade for Black History and Black Power

By David A. Varel

314 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 11 halftones

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6096-7
    Published: December 2020
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6095-0
    Published: December 2020
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-6097-4
    Published: October 2020
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6082-8
    Published: October 2020

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Awards & distinctions

2021 Colorado Book Awards (Biography)

Lawrence Reddick (1910–1995) was among the most notable African American intellectuals of his generation. The second curator of the Schomburg Library and a University of Chicago PhD, Reddick helped spearhead Carter Woodson's black history movement in the 1930s, guide the Double Victory campaign during World War II, lead the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the Cold War, mentor Martin Luther King Jr. throughout his entire public life, direct the Opportunities Industrialization Center Institute during the 1960s, and forcefully confront institutional racism within academia during the Black Power era. A lifelong Pan-Africanist, Reddick also fought for decolonization and black self-determination alongside Kwame Nkrumah, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Léopold Senghor, and W. E. B. Du Bois. Beyond participating in such struggles, Reddick documented and interpreted them for black and white publics alike.

In The Scholar and the Struggle, David A. Varel tells Reddick's compelling story. His biography reveals the many essential but underappreciated roles played by intellectuals in the black freedom struggle and connects the past to the present in powerful, unforgettable ways.

About the Author

David A. Varel is an affiliate faculty member at Metropolitan State University–Denver, and author of The Lost Black Scholar: Resurrecting Allison Davis in American Social Thought.
For more information about David A. Varel, visit the Author Page.


"Lawrence Reddick serves as a lens into the complexities of the Black freedom struggle during the twentieth century. It would be a disservice to pin Reddick down as merely a “civil rights” or “black nationalist” advocate—instead, like so many others before and since, Reddick had feet planted firmly in both broad ideological camps. In short, Reddick fought for Black freedom, and a space for Black people to have within the broader world of arts and letters. Varel’s book does not let us forget that. We should all be thankful for such a work as The Scholar and the Struggle."—Society for U.S. Intellectual History

“Powerful... Varel’s work illuminates a larger understanding about the African American historical project. The discipline draws upon the raw and kinetic power of the community to create a history, methodology and trajectory that has revolutionized historical thinking.”—Black Perspectives

“This biography of Lawrence Dunbar Reddick should be regarded as a foundational pathway to learn about African American history and culture from the 1930s to the 1980s. . . . Reddick was a visionary, and Varel captures this succinctly and efficaciously.”—Choice

“Well-written and meticulously researched. . . . Varel’s work will stand as the definitive biography of Lawrence D. Reddick while also making a valuable contribution to our understanding of the civil rights struggle.”—American Historical Review

“Impressive on a number of levels. . . . Varel’s The Scholar and the Struggle: Lawrence Reddick’s Crusade for Black History and Black Power brings Professor Reddick out of the 'shadows' and admirably into the limelight that amplifies the true meaning of his intellectual activism.”—African and Asian Studies

“Varel's scholarship is a tour de force. . . . The brilliance, thoughtfulness, and thoroughness of Varel's research demands the attention of upper-level college and graduate students as well as any readers interested in African American history, ethnic studies, political science, and the Long Civil Rights Movement”—Peace & Change