In this work, Michael C. Dawson brings us the most comprehensive analysis to date of the complex relationship of black political thought to black political identity and behaviour. Combining an historical perspective with conceptual sophistication and empirical evidence, Dawson identifies which political ideologies are supported by blacks, then traces their historical roots and examines their effects on black public opinion, not only among intellectuals and activists, but also at the grassroots level. Although many (mostly white) commentators have argued that black political thought falls within the realms of American liberalism, many black commentators regard black political thought as a rejection of American liberalism. Here, Dawson argues that black visions are more varied and complex. Black ideologies, such as radical egalitarianism, disillusioned liberalism, and black conservatism do criticize American liberalism while still accepting its basic tenets. But other ideologies - black nationalism, black feminism, and black Marxism - all challenge one or more of the premises of American liberalism.
Ultimately, Dawson provocatively argues that the rise of a black counterpublic in the 19th century has made the development of distinctive currents of black political thought possible. Based on the most extensive study of black public opinion to date, Dawson shows how each ideology still affects blacks' views on issues like their position in American society, the nature of whites, and separatism. Ranging from Frederick Douglass to rap artist Ice Cube, Dawson brilliantly illuminates the history and current role of black political thought in shaping political debate in America. 8 line drawings, 37 tables