Political Science

The Darkened Light of Faith: Race, Democracy, and Freedom in African American Political Thought

A powerful new account of what a group of nineteenth- and twentieth-century African American activists, intellectuals, and artists can teach us about democracy


Published (US):
Sep 26, 2023
Published (UK):
Nov 21, 2023
6.13 x 9.25 in.
2 b/w illus.
Political Science
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Could the African American political tradition save American democracy? African Americans have had every reason to reject America’s democratic experiment. Yet African American activists, intellectuals, and artists who have sought to transform the United States into a racially just society have put forward some of the most original and powerful ideas about how to make America live up to its democratic ideals. In The Darkened Light of Faith, Melvin Rogers provides a bold new account of African American political thought through the works and lives of individuals who built this vital tradition—a tradition that is urgently needed today.

The book reexamines how figures as diverse as David Walker, Frederick Douglass, Anna Julia Cooper, Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Du Bois, Billie Holiday, and James Baldwin thought about the politics, people, character, and culture of a society that so often dominated them. Sharing a light of faith darkened but not extinguished by the tragic legacy of slavery, they resisted the conclusion that America would always be committed to white supremacy. They believed that democracy is always in the process of becoming and that they could use it to reimagine society. But they also saw that achieving racial justice wouldn’t absolve us of the darkest features of our shared past, and that democracy must be measured by how skillfully we confront a history that will forever remain with us.

An ambitious account of the profound ways African Americans have reimagined democracy, The Darkened Light of Faith offers invaluable lessons about how to grapple with racial injustice and make democracy work.

Awards and Recognition

  • Winner of the Ralph J. Bunche Award, American Political Science Association
  • Winner of the David Easton Award, Foundations of Political Theory Section of the American Political Science Association
  • Winner of the Best Book Award, American Political Thought Section of the American Political Science Association