Political theorists Melvin Rogers and Jack “Chip” Turner have produced a truly magisterial edited volume centering the work by African American thinkers over the past centuries. With thirty contributed chapters, ranging across time, place, and person, this Collected History opens up the dialogue among theorists, writers, students, and scholars to explore the work that has often been considered vital to understanding African American political thought specifically, and American political thought in general. As the authors note in their introduction, they intentionally chose to focus each chapter on an individual and that individual’s work as a thinker, moving away from other approaches that often pull together thinkers and activists under broad topics or approaches.
African American Political Thought: A Collected History (University of Chicago Press, 2021) is both a reference, providing insight into one or more African American thinkers, and also an education, since the depth and span of the included work are so substantial. Rogers and Turner, and their contributing authors, wanted to bring out the complexity of individual black thinkers, thus the organization of the collection is one that provides the reader with an overview of each thinker, an analysis of their work, and the context in which to consider that work. In their introduction and in our conversation, Rogers and Turner explain the way that many of the black intellectuals and thinkers included in the collection act, in certain ways, like the original truth teller, Socrates, who emphasized the ugliness of truth, especially within democracy, but also the important need to know and understand the truth. Many of the thinkers included in this volume are truth tellers, but they are thinking and writing with great beauty, through their words, their poetry, even their music. As the editors note, this is a keen paradox of black political thought, ugly truths explained or expressed through great beauty. This extraordinary collected history will be of interest to many students, scholars, and researchers, across myriad disciplines.
Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-editor of the award winning book, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012), as well as co-editor of Mad Men and Politics: Nostalgia and the Remaking of Modern America (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015). Email her comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet to @gorenlj.
Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI.