Book Launch: “African American Political Thought: A Collected History”

Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America (CSREA)

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. Co-editors 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. 

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.

Featuring co-editors:
  • Melvin Rogers, Associate Professor of Political Science, Brown University
  • Jack Turner, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Washington
And contributors to the volume:
  • Robert Gooding-Williams, M. Moran Weston/Black Alumni Council Professor of African-American Studies, Professor of Philosophy and of African American and African Diaspora Studies, Columbia University
  • Naomi Murakawa, Associate Professor of African American Studies, Princeton University
  • Brandon M. Terry, Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies and Social Studies, Harvard University

Moderator Bios

Melvin Rogers is associate professor of political science, with wide-ranging interests located largely within contemporary democratic theory and the history of American and African American political and ethical philosophy. He is the author of The Undiscovered Dewey: Religion, Morality, and the Ethos of Democracy (Columbia University Press, 2008), editor of John Dewey, The Public and Its Problems (Ohio University Press, 2016), co-editor of African American Political Thought: A Collected History (University of Chicago Press, 2021), and is completing a book for Princeton University Press entitled The Darkened Light of Faith: Race, Democracy, and Freedom in African American Political Thought.

Jack Turner is associate professor of political science at the University of Washington. He specializes in American political thought, critical race theory, democratic theory, and liberalism and its critics. He is the author of Awakening to Race: Individualism and Social Consciousness in America (University of Chicago Press, 2012). With Melvin L. Rogers, he co-edited African American Political Thought: A Collected History (University of Chicago Press, 2021). His articles have appeared in a wide variety of journals, including Political Theory, Raritan, Modern Intellectual History, and Polity. His latest article, “Audre Lorde’s Anti-Imperial Consciousness,” recently appeared in Political Theory. He has served on the editorial boards of Journal of Politics, Political Research Quarterly, American Journal of Political Science, American Political Thought, and Politics, Groups, and Identities. He is writing a new book titled Existential Democracy: Death and Politics in Walt Whitman

Speaker Bios

Robert Gooding-Williams is the M. Moran Weston/Black Alumni Council Professor of African-American Studies and professor of philosophy and of African American and African diaspora studies at Columbia University. His areas of research and teaching interest include social and political philosophy, the history of African American political thought, 19th-century European philosophy, existentialism, and aesthetics. Gooding-Williams is the author of Zarathustra’s Dionysian Modernism (Stanford University Press, 2001), Look, A Negro!: Philosophical Essays on Race, Culture, and Politics (Routledge, 2005), and In The Shadow of Du Bois: Afro-Modern Political Thought in America (Harvard University Press, 2009). In 2010, In the Shadow of Du Bois won two book prizes: one, for the best book on race, ethnicity and political thought awarded by the Race, Ethnicity, and Politics section of the American Political Science Association; and the second, an honorable mention citation by the David Easton Award, awarded by the Foundations of Political Theory section of the American Political Science Association. Gooding-Williams was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2018.

Naomi Murakawa is an associate professor of African American studies at Princeton University. She studies the reproduction of racial inequality in the 20th- and 21st-century American politics, with specialization in crime policy and the carceral state. She is the author of The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America (Oxford University Press, 2014), and her work has appeared in Law & Society Review, Theoretical Criminology, Du Bois Review, and several edited volumes. She has received fellowships from Columbia Law School’s Center for the Study of Law and Culture, as well as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health Policy Research Program.

Prior to joining the Department of African American Studies at Princeton, she taught in the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington. Professor Murakawa received her B.A. in women’s studies from Columbia University, her M.Sc. in social policy from the London School of Economics, and her Ph.D. in political science from Yale University.

Brandon M. Terry is assistant professor of African and African American studies and social studies at Harvard University. Terry earned a Ph.D. with distinction in political science and African American studies from Yale University, an M.Sc. in political theory research as a Michael von Clemm Fellow at Corpus Christi College at the University of Oxford, and an A.B., magna cum laude, in government and African and African American studies from Harvard College.

A scholar of African American political thought, Brandon is the editor, with Tommie Shelby, of To Shape a New World: Essays on the Political Philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Harvard University Press, 2018) and the editor of Fifty Years Since MLK (Boston Review/MIT 2018). He has published work in Modern Intellectual History, Political Theory, The New York Review of Books, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Boston Review, Dissent, The Point, New Labor Forum, Perspectives on Politics. For his work, Brandon has received fellowships and awards from the Edmund J. Safra Center for Ethics, the Center for History and Economics, the Ford Foundation, the Mellon-Mays Foundation, the American Political Science Association, the National Conference of Black Political Scientists, and Best American Essays. He is the author of the forthcoming book, The Tragic Vision of the Civil Rights Movement: Political Theory and the Historical Imagination that interrogates, with philosophy of history, literary theory, and political philosophy, the normative and political significance of the different ways we imagine African American history. He also currently serves on the board of King Boston, a privately funded non-profit working closely with the City of Boston and the Boston Foundation to create a living memorial and civic action programs honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King and their struggles to end militarism, economic injustice, and racism.