Current project: The Idea of Civil Society in Early Black Political Thought (book manuscript)
Between the individual and the state lies a wide expanse of human interaction that can nourish the soul and strengthen social attachment: civil society. Civil society is typically understood as the vibrant nexus of intermediary institutions, such as the family, church, and civic organization, that grants men and women moral purpose, spiritual fulfillment, and material welfare. Although the idea of civil society has served as a source of rich commentary in the traditional canon of political and social thought, a book-length study on the subject from the perspective of black thinkers has yet to be written.
My current book project attempts to fill this void by addressing how African-American intellectuals and activists have understood civil society in its political, social, religious, ethical, and economic dimensions. It will explore questions such as: how did black thinkers grasp the idea of civil society? How did they conceptualize civil society with specific regard to black communities? How did they view civil society in relation to political activism? In relation to social progress? In relation to the black church? What were the limits to civil society in their view? What broader truths do their observations on civil society reveal about the associational nature of man?
Chapter One: Richard Allen and Absalom Jones
Chapter Two: Frederick Douglass
Chapter Three: Alexander Crummell
Chapter Four: Booker T. Washington
Chapter Five: W.E.B. Du Bois
Chapter Six: Marcus Garvey
Chapter Seven: Anna Julia Haywood Cooper, Fannie Barrier Williams, and Mary Church Terrell