Michael Eric Dyson
Born (1958-10-23) October 23, 1958 (age 64)
  • Theresa Taylor
    (m. 1977; div. 1979)
  • Brenda Joyce
    (m. 1982; div. 1992)
  • Marcia Louise
    (m. 1992)
Ecclesiastical career
Ordainedc. 1977
Academic background
Alma mater
ThesisUses of Heroes: Celebration and Criticism in the Interpretation of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. (1993)
InfluencesManning Marable[2]
Academic work
InstitutionsVanderbilt University
Websitemichaelericdyson.com Edit this at Wikidata

Michael Eric Dyson (born October 23, 1958) is an American academic, author, ordained minister, and radio host. He is a professor in the College of Arts and Science and in the Divinity School at Vanderbilt University.[3] Described by Michael A. Fletcher as "a Princeton Ph.D. and a child of the streets who takes pains never to separate the two",[4] Dyson has authored or edited more than twenty books dealing with subjects such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Marvin Gaye, Barack Obama, Nas's debut album Illmatic, Bill Cosby, Tupac Shakur and Hurricane Katrina.

Early life and education

Dyson was born on October 23, 1958, in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Addie Mae Leonard, who was from Alabama. He was adopted by his stepfather, Everett Dyson.[citation needed] He attended Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, on an academic scholarship but left and completed his education at Northwestern High School.[4] He became an ordained Baptist minister at nineteen years of age.[5] Having worked in factories in Detroit to support his family, he entered Knoxville College as a freshman at the age of twenty-one.[6] Dyson received his bachelor's degree, magna cum laude, from Carson–Newman College in 1985.[4] He received a Ph.D. in religion from Princeton University in 1993 after completing a doctoral dissertation titled Uses of Heroes: Celebration and Criticism in the Interpretation of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.[7]



Dyson has taught at Chicago Theological Seminary, Brown University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Columbia University, DePaul University, and the University of Pennsylvania.[4] From 2007 to 2020, he was a Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University.[8] In 2021, Dyson moved to Vanderbilt University where he holds the Centennial Chair and serves as University Distinguished Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies in the College of Arts and Science and University Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Society in the Divinity School.[3] Between 2016 and 2018, he was a visiting professor at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont.


His 1994 book Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X became a New York Times notable book of the year.[9] In his 2006 book Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster, Dyson analyzes the political and social events in the wake of the catastrophe against the backdrop of an overall "failure in race and class relations".[10][11][12] In 2010, Dyson edited Born to Use Mics: Reading Nas's Illmatic, with contributions based on the album’s tracks by, among others, Kevin Coval, Kyra D. Gaunt ("Professor G"), dream hampton, Marc Lamont Hill, Adam Mansbach, and Mark Anthony Neal.[13] Dyson's own essay in this anthology, "'One Love,' Two Brothers, Three Verses", argues that the current US penal system disfavors young black males more than any other segment of the population.[14][15] His last three books appeared repeatedly on the New York Times Bestseller list.


Dyson hosted a radio show, which aired on Radio One, from January 2006 to February 2007. He is also a commentator on National Public Radio, MSNBC and CNN, and is a regular guest on Real Time with Bill Maher. Beginning July 2011 Michael Eric Dyson became a political analyst for MSNBC.[16] In May 2018, he participated in the Munk debate on political correctness, arguing alongside Michelle Goldberg against Stephen Fry and Jordan Peterson.[17] In August 2018, he spoke at the funeral of Aretha Franklin.[18]

Dyson served on the board of directors of the Common Ground Foundation, a project dedicated to empowering urban youth in the United States.[19] Dyson and his third wife, Marcia L. Dyson,[4] were regular guests and speakers at the Aspen Institute Conferences and Ideas Festival.[citation needed] Dyson most recently hosted a television show, The Raw Word.

The Michael Eric Dyson Show (2009-2011)

The Michael Eric Dyson Show radio program debuted on April 6, 2009, and is broadcast from Morgan State University. The show's first guest was Oprah Winfrey,[20] to whom Dyson dedicated his book Can You Hear Me Now? The Inspiration, Wisdom, and Insight of Michael Eric Dyson. The show appears to have been discontinued with its last episode being in December 2011.


Dyson's general philosophy is that American black people are continuing to suffer from generations of ongoing oppression. On Fox News with Tucker Carlson, Dyson suggested that white Americans looking for ways to counter white privilege could make individual efforts to contribute time and money to support local black communities.[21]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Work Result
2004 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Non-Fiction Why I Love Black Women Winner[22]
2006 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Non-Fiction Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind? Winner[22]
2007 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Non-Fiction Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster Nominee[23]
2007 American Book Award Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster Winner[24]
2018 Southern Book Prize – Non-Fiction Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America Winner[25]



  1. ^ Armstrong, Elizabeth (March 15, 2001). "The Pure Heart of Gangsta Rap". Chicago Reader.
  2. ^ "Manning Marable's New Malcolm X Biography Investigates Conflicted Reality of the Civil Rights Leader". Democracy Now!.
  3. ^ a b "Dr. Michael Eric Dyson Heads to Vanderbilt - Higher Education". Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e Michael A. Fletcher (Spring 2000). "Michael Eric Dyson: A Scholar and a Hip-Hop Preacher.", The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.
  5. ^ Marie Arana (August 24, 2003). "Michael Eric Dyson. Telling It Any Way He Can.", The Washington Post.
  6. ^ Michael Eric Dyson (April 2, 2011). "Manning Marable: A Brother, a Mentor, a Great Mind." Archived June 5, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, The Root.
  7. ^ Dyson, Michael Eric (1993). Uses of heroes : celebration and criticism in the interpretation of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.
  8. ^ Michael E Dyson, Department of Sociology, Georgetown University
  9. ^ Calvin Reid (February 21, 2000). "Interview. Michael Eric Dyson: Of Her s and Hip-hop. The real challenge of King's heroism is to make it a useful heroism", Publishers Weekly.
  10. ^ Austin Considine (February 5, 2006). "Disparities revealed in Katrina's wake / Race, class central to analysis of how nation failed victims", San Francisco Chronicle.
  11. ^ Staff (April 2006). "The center of the storm", Ebony.
  12. ^ Staff (January 16, 2006). "Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster", Publishers Weekly.
  13. ^ Michael Eric Dyson; Sohail Daulatzai (December 28, 2009). Born To Use Mics: Reading Nas's Illmatic. Basic Civitas Books. pp. v–vi. ISBN 978-0-465-00211-5. Retrieved August 21, 2011.
  14. ^ Dyson; Daulatzai (2009). Born To Use Mics. p. 131. ISBN 9780465002115. Retrieved August 21, 2011.
  15. ^ Alessandro Porco (May 2009). "'Time is Illmatic': A Critical Retrospective on Nas's Groundbreaking Debut", Postmodern Culture – Volume 19, Number 3.
  16. ^ Samuels, Allison (August 12, 2011). "Michael Eric Dyson Hire by MSNBC Deepens Black Ire Over Al Sharpton Show". The Daily Beast. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  17. ^ "Munk Debates - Political Correctness". Archived from the original on December 4, 2018. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  18. ^ Izadi, Elahe; Butler, Bethonie; Rao, Sonia (August 31, 2018). "'She gave us pride and a regal bar to reach': Everything that happened at Aretha Franklin's 8-hour funeral". Washington Post. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  19. ^ Staff (2007). "Biography: Dr. Michael Eric Dyson" Archived November 1, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Common Ground Foundation, board members.
  20. ^ Richard Prince (April 1, 2009). "Oprah to Inaugurate Michael Eric Dyson Radio Show" Archived November 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Maynard Institute. Richard Prince's Journal-isms™.
  21. ^ "Dyson: Whites should open individual reparation accounts". February 2, 2017.
  22. ^ a b Staff. "NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Nonfiction" Archived September 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Harris County Public Library.
  23. ^ Williams, Kam (2007). "38th NAACP Image Awards (2007)". AALBC. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
  24. ^ American Booksellers Association (2013). "The American Book Awards / Before Columbus Foundation [1980–2012]". BookWeb. Archived from the original on March 13, 2013. Retrieved September 25, 2013. 2007 [...] Michael Eric Dyson, Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster (Basic Books)
  25. ^ "The Southern Book Prize: Past Winners". Authors 'Round the South. Retrieved May 9, 2020.