Document Type

Contribution to Book

Source Publication

African American Political Thought: A Collected History

Publication Date



Melvin L. Rogers and Jack Turner


Chicago University Press


Chicago, Illinois


First Edition



First Page


Last Page



Religious Studies

Publisher Statement

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.


In her range of activities as orator, scholar, community activist, and educator, Anna Julia Cooper demonstrates a basic orientation toward life that paradigmatically exemplifies a proto-feminist politics based in intersectional analysis. Addressing problematic gendered, racialized, and class power dynamics in various institutions, Cooper sought a readjustment of relationships among all Americans that would ensure the dignity and worth of each individual. A close reading of her corpus also shows Cooper consistently identifying principles that advanced nuanced approaches to justice, freedom, and equality. In this chapter, I propose that Cooper’s mature intellectual vision demonstrates a particular vision of a transformed America, as well as viable ways of achieving its transformation. Advancing this view, I build on a core theme across Cooper’s work—what I call her politics of radical relationality—in which the fate of each individual (or the one) is inextricably connected to all (or the many). Central to this vision is Cooper’s conception of humanity, often described in naturalistic, evolutionary terms, which she used to challenge racial, gender, and class injustices of her day. She also appealed to a communal ontology in her view of humanity in order to assert the inherent worth and value of African Americans and other marginalized groups in North America at a time when their humanity was questioned or ignored.