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African American Political Thought

A Collected History

African American Political Thought offers an unprecedented philosophical history of thinkers from the African American community and African diaspora who have addressed the central issues of political life: democracy, race, violence, liberation, solidarity, and mass political action. Melvin L. Rogers and Jack Turner have brought together leading scholars to reflect on individual intellectuals from the past four centuries, developing their list with an expansive approach to political expression. The collected essays consider such figures as Martin Delany, Ida B. Wells, W. E. B. Du Bois,  James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Audre Lorde, whose works are addressed by scholars such as Farah Jasmin Griffin, Robert Gooding-Williams, Michael Dawson, Nick Bromell, Neil Roberts, and Lawrie Balfour.

While African American political thought is inextricable from the historical movement of American political thought, this volume stresses the individuality of Black thinkers, the transnational and diasporic consciousness, and how individual speakers and writers draw on various traditions simultaneously to broaden our conception of African American political ideas.  This landmark volume gives us the opportunity to tap into the myriad and nuanced political theories central to Black life. In doing so, African American Political Thought: A Collected History transforms how we understand the past and future of political thinking in the West.

808 pages | 7 x 10 | © 2020

Black Studies

Political Science: Political and Social Theory, Race and Politics


"The book is a series of essays on the luminaries of African American political thought, across the history of the United States, by some of the most impressive scholars currently working. It is as close to a comprehensive overview of the African American political tradition as I’ve read, with chapters on figures from Phillis Wheatley and David Walker (two of the most important Black political thinkers of the early American republic) to Angela Davis and Clarence Thomas."

Jamelle Bouie | The New York Times

"Melvin Rogers’s and Jack Turner’s magisterial volume African American Political Thought comprises thirty essays on thirty different thinkers, each grappling with a shared set of questions and themes. . . . As 'collected history,' African American Political Thought offers a rich point from which to begin. Transfiguring the history of American political thought and democratic political theory, the volume proposes a canon of political thought that might itself be a starting point for democratic politics. . . . What they have achieved here does not only augment our existing canons, but works to transform those canons, and indeed the project of canon formation itself."

Comparative Political Theory

"For those wishing to learn more about the broader significance of black social-political thought . . . African American Political Thought: A Collected History is the go-to volume. . . . All of the thirty essays in African American Political Thought generate original scholarship and insights . . . all are invaluable sources for future scholarship on these important political thinkers’ contributions to political theory. Overall, this collected history works to reshape understandings of politics, history, culture, economics, institutions, social relations, and human beings in the United States by adding missing political theorists’ voices and views and illustrating problems with some of the dominant political theorists’ voices and views."

Ethnic and Racial Studies

"African American Political Thought, co-edited by Brown political scientist Melvin Rogers, reveals the outsize impact many Black thinkers, from Frederick Douglass to Angela Davis, have had on American society."

Brown University (News from Brown)

"Melvin Rogers’s and Jack Turner’s highly anticipated volume African American Political Thought: A Collected History promises to transform how we read and teach the history of Black political thought. An impressive collection, it fills large gaps in our understanding of this tradition and sets a new foundation for further research... The volume sets a new standard for study of African American political thought and makes a persuasive case for the tradition’s important contributions to political theory broadly."

European Journal of Political Theory

“For far too long, mainstream white American political theorists, whether in political science or political philosophy, have gotten away with the construction of a Jim Crow canon for which black thinkers are separate, unequal, and invisible. This groundbreaking and comprehensive overview of the African American political tradition should henceforth make such intellectual ghettoization impossible.”

Charles W. Mills, The City University of New York

African American Political Thought should become an instant classic. So much to mine here. So many lines of inquiry to follow. Rogers and Turner have masterfully curated a collection of essays that will guide the field of African American political thought for generations. The study of American political thought will never be the same.”

Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Princeton University

“This book is an essential intervention in political theory and expands the notion of the canon of American political thought in ways that are both necessary and profound. Herein we begin to understand the richness of the legacies of politics reasoned from margin to center and the critical impact that can have on conceptions of democracy and justice. A must-read for those interested in understanding American politics and seriously engaging political theory.”

Deva Woodly, The New School

"Rogers and Turner have assembled a collection of African American political thought covering a stunning range of time and ideas... Given its scope, the book maintains a sense of continuity through a plethora of resonances between its chapters. The collection boasts a variety of interpretative approaches and scales of analysis and is notable for its attention to a range of rhetorical strategies and expressive genres: sermons, slave narratives, satire, Supreme Court opinions... The time and care Rogers and Turner invested in this project from its conception in 2007 and compilation over 10 years is evident in its comprehensiveness and thorough introduction. The credentials of the contributors to this collection are astonishing and the oeuvre of each in their own right is worth reading further."

MAKE Literary Magazine

Table of Contents

Political Theorizing in Black: An Introduction
Melvin L. Rogers and Jack Turner

1    Phillis Wheatley and the Rhetoric of Politics and Race
Vincent Carretta

2    David Walker: Citizenship, Judgment, Freedom, and Solidarity
Melvin L. Rogers

3    Martin Delany’s Two Principles, the Argument for Emigration, and Revolutionary Black Nationalism
Robert Gooding-Williams

4    Harriet Jacobs: Prisoner of Hope
Nick Bromell

5    Frederick Douglass: Nonsovereign Freedom and the Plurality of Political Resistance
Sharon R. Krause

6    Alexander Crummell’s Three Visions of Black Nationalism
Frank M. Kirkland

7    Booker T. Washington and the Politics of Deception
Desmond Jagmohan

8    Anna Julia Cooper: Radical Relationality and the Ethics of Interdependence
Carol Wayne White

9    Ida B. Wells on Racial Criminalization
Naomi Murakawa

10    W. E. B. Du Bois: Afro-modernism, Expressivism, and the Curse of Centrality
Paul C. Taylor

11    Marcus Garvey: The Black Prince?
Michael Dawson

12    A. Philip Randolph: Radicalizing Rights at the Intersection of Class and Race
Michael McCann

13    Zora Neale Hurston’s Radical Individualism
Farah Jasmine Griffin

14    George S. Schuyler: Post-Souls Satirist
Jeffrey B. Ferguson

15    C. L. R. James: Race, Revolution, and Black Liberation
Anthony Bogues

16    Langston Hughes’s Ambivalent Political Expressivism
Jason Frank

17    Thurgood Marshall: The Legacy and Limits of Equality under the Law
Daniel Moak

18    Richard Wright: Realizing the Promise of the West
Tommie Shelby

19    Bayard Rustin: Between Democratic Theory and Black Political Thought
George Shulman

20    Ralph Ellison: Democratic Theorist
Danielle Allen

21    James Baldwin: Democracy between Nihilism and Hope
John E. Drabinski

22    Malcolm X: Dispatches on Racial Cruelty
Nikhil Pal Singh

23    Martin Luther King: Strategist of Force
David L. Chappell

24    Toni Morrison and the Fugitives’ Democracy
Lawrie Balfour

25    Audre Lorde’s Politics of Difference
Jack Turner

26    Stokely Carmichael and the Longing for Black Liberation: Black Power and Beyond
Brandon M. Terry

27    Huey P. Newton and the Last Days of the Black Colony
Cedric G. Johnson

28    Angela Y. Davis: Abolitionism, Democracy, Freedom
Neil Roberts

29    Clarence Thomas: Race Pessimism and Black Capitalism
Corey Robin

30    Cornel West and the Black Prophetic Tradition
Mark D. Wood


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