African-American Youth and Civic Engagement - Literature Review

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While Alexis de Tocqueville praised Americans for being a people that were “forever forming associations,” the past two decades have been marked by increasing apprehension about the political and civic indifference of the American public. Civic engagement has become a salient issue to those both inside and outside of the academy. As declarations of civic decline have proliferated, a surge of scholarly work has begun to investigate the validity, meaning, and implications of diminished civic activism. Within this body of work, there is a growing emphasis on the importance of the civic participation of youth. In this memo, the author elaborates on and analyzes the literature relevant to youth and civic engagement. In addition, she critiques some of the basic assumptions and oversights inherent in much of the literature, gives voice to a few concerns that have yet to be fully addressed, and notes possibly fruitful directions for future research. The primary purpose of this memo is to provide an accurate portrait of the state of research on youth civic engagement, while paying special attention to the place (or lack thereof) that African American youth occupy in current research agendas.


Jamila Celestine

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