Carl Horowitz’s Definitive Political Biography of Al Sharpton

By Carl F. Horowitz
Volume 29, Number 1 (Fall 2018)
Issue theme: "Sanctuary Nation - The Fraying of America"

by Carl F. Horowitz
(expanded edition)
CreateSpace, 2018,
455+xvii pages,
$16.99 softcover

First published in 2015 and updated this year (2018), Sharpton: A Demagogue’s Rise is the definitive political biography of America’s most successful race hustler. Getting his start at age four as the “wonder boy preacher,” Sharpton became part of Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton Powell’s entourage by age eleven. At thirteen he was working for Martin Luther King’s Operation Breadbasket and meeting with Jesse Jackson. In early adulthood he served as manager and sidekick to the “Godfather of Soul” James Brown while still managing to build up his personal organization, the National Youth Movement. By the 1980s he was fomenting riots. 

All it takes to get him to swing into action [writes Horowitz] is a report of a white-on-black crime (which he assumes happened) or a black-on-white crime (which he assumes did not happen) that can serve as a pretext to intimidate whites. The facts of a given case don’t matter — or at any rate, don’t matter nearly as much as the possibility of affirming an overarching narrative of black suffering (at the hands of whites). All of Sharpton’s “projects” these past three-plus decades have followed this pattern.

He has made himself part of nearly every racial crime story in America since the mid-1980s, whether attempting to railroad innocent non-blacks — Bernie Goetz, George Zimmerman, Officer Darren Wilson — or defending indefensible blacks — Tawana Brawley, the Jena Six, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown. His accusations usually collapse as the facts of each case become known, but by that time he is already off on his next crusade, his air of invincibility intact. 

His National Action Network (motto: No Justice, No Peace) takes in between $5 and $7 million annually, much of it coughed up by corporate “sponsors” hoping to avoid charges of discrimination. A Presidential candidate in 2003-4, he made it to the White House as a frequent advisor to Barack Obama on racial issues. Since 2011, he has hosted his own national television show. He is one of the most powerful men in America, and he has accomplished it all by a combination of character assassination, intimidation, mob justice, and contempt for the rule of law. Horowitz details every step in his career, leaving no scandal unturned, and capturing the essence of this demagogue-turned media celebrity. A must-read for any concerned political observer.

About the author

Carl F. Horowitz is senior fellow with the National Legal and Policy Center, a Falls Church, Virginia-based nonprofit group dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in American public life.