A discussion on the recently published African American Political Thought: A Collected History, edited volume by Melvin L. Rogers and Jack Turner with contributor Farah Jasmine Griffin
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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.
Social and political movements of the past have given passage to crucial gains in the call for civil rights, justice, and equality. But might there be a need for inspired individualism and grassroots organizing, that reinforces a sustained level of activism? What Matters Now? asks us to consider the forms of transformative activism necessary in the present that engage daily life, the wellbeing of humanity, the environment, and a democratic society.
Melvin L. Rogers is currently Associate Professor of Political Science Brown University. He received his B.A. From Amherst College, his M.Phil. in political thought and intellectual history from the University of Cambridge, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University. In addition he has held a Ford Foundation pre-doctoral fellowship, an Exchange Scholar position in the department of Religion at Princeton University, and additional appointments in political science at University of Virginia, Swarthmore College, Carleton College, philosophy at Emory University, and African American Studies and Political Science at UCLA. He has published, The Undiscovered Dewey: Religion, Morality, and the Ethos of Democracy, The Darkened Light of Faith: Race, Democracy, and Freedom in African American Political Thought and John Dewey, The Public and its Problems. The recently published, African American Political Thought: A Collected History (University of Chicago Press, 2020), is a collection of 30 essays on figures in the tradition of African American political thought co-edited with Jack Turner. His articles appear in major academic journals as well as popular venues such as Dissent, the Atlantic, Public Seminar, and Boston Review. In addition to these past and current projects, Professor Rogers now serves as the co-editor of Oxford University Press New Histories of Philosophy series. The series attends to the unstudied resources in the history of philosophy.
Farah Jasmine Griffin is Chair of African-American & African Diaspora Studies; Director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies and the William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African-American Studies at Columbia University. She is also Affiliate Faculty of the Center for Jazz Studies. Professor Griffin received her B.A. from Harvard, where she majored in American History and Literature and her Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale. Her major fields of interest are American and African American literature, music, and history. She has published widely on issues of race and gender, feminism, jazz and cultural politics. Griffin is the author of Who Set You Flowin?: The African American Migration Narrative (Oxford, 1995), Beloved Sisters and Loving Friends: Letters from Rebecca Primus of Royal Oak, Maryland, and Addie Brown of Hartford Connecticut, 1854-1868 (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), If You Can’t Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday (Free Press, 2001) and co-author, with Salim Washington, of Clawing At the Limits of Cool: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and the Greatest Jazz Collaboration Ever (Thomas Dunne, 2008). Her most recent book is Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II, published by Basic Books in 2013. Griffin collaborated with composer, pianist, Geri Allen and director, actor S. Epatha Merkerson on two theatrical projects, for which she wrote the book: The first, “Geri Allen and Friends Celebrate the Great Jazz Women of the Apollo,” with Lizz Wright, Dianne Reeves, Teri Lyne Carrington and others, premiered on the main stage of the Apollo Theater in May of 2013. The second, “A Conversation with Mary Lou” featuring vocalist Carmen Lundy, premiered at Harlem Stage in March 2014 and was performed at The John F. Kennedy Center in May of 2016. Griffin’s essays and articles have appeared in Essence, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, The Guardian, Harper's Bazaar, Art Forum and numerous other publications. She is also a frequent radio commentator on political and cultural issues.
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.