Gerald Lyn Early is an American essayist and American culture critic. He is currently the Merle Kling Professor of Modern letters, of English, African studies, African American studies, American culture studies, and Director, Center for Joint Projects in the Humanities and Social Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
He also served as a consultant on Ken Burns' documentary films Baseball, Jazz, Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, and The War. He is a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Fresh Air. His essays have appeared in numerous editions of Best American Essays series. He writes on topics as diverse as American literature, the Korean War, African American culture, Afro-American autobiography, non-fiction prose, baseball, jazz, prizefighting, Motown, Miles Davis, Muhammad Ali and Sammy Davis Jr.
Everyone in our culture wants to win a prize. Perhaps that is the grand lesson we have taken with us from kindergarten in the age of perversions of Dewey-style education: everyone gets a ribbon, and praise becomes a meaningless narcotic to soothe egoistic distemper.