Remembering Black History in America

Black schoolchildren, Jack Delano, 1941

Remembering Black History in America


African-Americans have made a lasting impact on the United States and our nation’s history. Figures such as Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. are well remembered today for their insights and political thought. Each year, Black History Month honors these historical contributions and recognizes the unique culture and heritage of Black Americans.

In honor of Black History Month and the contributions that African-Americans have made to our country, JMC presents a collection of fellows’ articles and other resources on African-American history and political thought.



“Self-Made Men”

Frederick Douglass


Portrait of Frederick Douglass…Though a man of this class need not claim to be a hero or to be worshiped as such, there is genuine heroism in his struggle and something of sublimity and glory in his triumph. Every instance of such success is an example and a help to humanity. It, better than any mere assertion, gives us assurance of the latent powers and resources of simple and unaided manhood. It dignifies labor, honors application, lessens pain and depression, dispels gloom from the brow of the destitute and weariness from the heart of him about to faint, and enables man to take hold of the roughest and flintiest hardships incident to the battle of life, with a lighter heart, with higher hopes and a larger courage…

I am certain that there is nothing good, great or desirable which man can possess in this world, that does not come by some kind of labor of physical or mental, moral or spiritual. A man, at times, gets something for nothing, but it will, in his hands, amount to nothing. What is true in the world of matter, is equally true in the world of the mind. Without culture there can be no growth; without exertion, no acquisition; without friction, no polish; without labor, no knowledge; without action, no progress and without conflict, no victory. A man that lies down a fool at night, hoping that he will waken wise in the morning, will rise up in the morning as he laid down in the evening…

The lesson taught at this point by human experience is simply this, that the man who will get up will be helped up; and the man who will not get up will be allowed to stay down. This rule may appear somewhat harsh, but in its general application and operation it is wise, just and beneficent. I know of no other rule which can be substituted for it without bringing social chaos. Personal independence is a virtue and it is the soul out of which comes the sturdiest manhood. But there can be no independence without a large share of self-dependence, and this virtue cannot be bestowed. It must be developed from within…

The nearest approach to justice to the negro for the past is to do him justice in the present. Throw open to him the doors of the schools, the factories, the workshops, and of all mechanical industries. For his own welfare, give him a chance to do whatever he can do well. If he fails then, let him fail! I can, however, assure you that he will not fail. Already has he proven it. As a soldier he proved it. He has since proved it by industry and sobriety and by the acquisition of knowledge and property. He is almost the only successful tiller of the soil of the South, and is fast becoming the owner of land formerly owned by his old master and by the old master class. In a thousand instances has he verified my theory of self-made men. He well performed the task of making bricks without straw: now give him straw. Give him all the facilities for honest and successful livelihood, and in all honorable avocations receive him as a man among men…

Read the entire piece at >>



Diana Schaub and Nick Buccola on African-American Political Thought

Diana Schaub on the Life and Political Thought of Frederick Douglass

JMC Faculty Partner Diana Schaub spoke to JMC Board Member Bill Kristol on the life and political thought of Frederick Douglass for an episode Conversations with Bill Kristol:

Click here to view on YouTube >>


Diana Schaub and Lucas Morel on Douglass’s View of Emancipation and Lincoln

Diana Schaub and Lucas Morel, Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee University, discuss Frederick Douglass’ thoughts about Lincoln and his role in emancipation at the American Enterprise Institute.

Click here to view the video on Vimeo >>


Diana Schaub on Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X

JMC faculty partner Diana Schaub has spoken on the differing ideologies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X – “Who Was a Better Citizen, Martin Luther King or Malcolm X?” on the Claremont Institute’s The American Mind with Charles Kesler:

Click here to view on YouTube >>


Nicholas Buccola on Frederick Douglass and Libertarianism

Faculty partner Nicholas Buccola considers Douglass’s place in and his lasting contribution to the classical liberal movement in America.

Click here to visit YouTube >>



Commentary and articles from JMC fellows:


The African-American Experience Prior to the Civil War


Warren Billings, The Cases of Fernando and Elizabeth Key: A Note on the Status of Blacks in Seventeenth– Century Virginia.” (William and Mary Quarterly 30.3, July 1973)

Michael Douma, The bell-curve of anti-slavery.” (LearnLiberty, February 19, 2017)

Isaac Jefferson, John Plumbe, 1845Michael Munger (co-author), Did Southerners Favor Slavery? Inferences from an Analysis of Prices in New Orleans, 1805-1860.” (Public Choice 159.3/4, June 2014)

Michele Navakas, Coral, Labor, Slavery, and Silence in the Archives.” (Age of Revolutions, Revolutionary Material Cultures Essay Series, April 22, 2019)

Peter Onuf (editor), Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson: History, Memory, and Civic Culture. (University Press of Virginia, 1999)

James Patterson, Go Down, Moses. (Library of Law and Liberty, April 26, 2016)

Sandra Peart (editor), The Political Economy of Slavery, 1-4. (Thoemmes Continuum, 2004)

David Skarbek (co-author), Why Didn’t Slaves Revolt More Often During the Middle Passage? (Rationality & Society 26.2, April 2014)

Evan Taparata, The slave-trade roots of US private prisons.” (Public Radio International, August 26, 2016)


Slavery, Political Philosophy, and Constitutional Law


William Allen, Re-Thinking Uncle Tom: The Political Philosophy of H. B. Stowe. (Lexington Books, 2008)

State and Citizen, British America and the Early States, Peter OnufMark Boonshoft, Doughfaces at the Founding: Federalists, Anti-Federalists, Slavery, and the Ratification of the Constitution in New York.” (New York History 93.3, Summer 2012)

Justin Dyer, Natural Law and the Antislavery Constitutional Tradition. (Cambridge University Press, 2012)

Justin Dyer, Revisiting Dred Scott: Prudence, Providence, and the Limits of Constitutional Statesmanship.” (Perspectives on Political Science 39.3, 2010)

Justin Dyer, Slavery, Abortion, and the Politics of Constitutional Meaning. (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

Justin Dyer, Slavery and the Magna Carta in the Development of Anglo-American Constitutionalism.” (PS: Political Science and Politics 43.3, July 2010)

Eliga Gould, The Laws of War and Peace: Legitimating Slavery in the Age of the American Revolution.” (State and Citizen: British America and the Early United States, University of Virginia Press, 2013)

Peter Onuf, Statehood and Union: A History of the Northwest Ordinance. (Indiana University Press, 1987)

Justin Lawrence Simard, Slavery’s Legalism: Lawyers and the Commercial Routine of Slavery.” (Law and History Review 37.2, May 2019)

Keith Whittington, The Road Not Taken: Dred Scott, Constitutional Law, and Political Questions.” (Journal of Politics 63.2, May 2001)

Keith Whittington, Slavery and the U.S. Supreme Court.” (The Political Thought of the Civil War, University Press of Kansas, 2018)

Jean Yarbrough, Race and the Moral Foundation of the American Republic: Another Look at the Declaration and the Notes on Virginia.” (The Journal of Politics 53.1, February 1991)

Michael Zuckert, Transcript of the 2013 Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture: Slavery and the Constitutional Convention. (American Enterprise Institute, September 17, 2013)


The Civil War and Emancipation


Andrew Lang, Republicanism, Race, and Reconstruction: The Ethos of Military Occupation in Civil War America.” (Journal of the Civil War Era 4.4, December 2014)

Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln, Jonathan WhiteJonathan White, 155 Years Ago: Lincoln and the Black Delegation.” (The Lincoln Forum Bulletin 42, Fall 2017)

Jonathan White (editor), The Civil War Letters of Tillman Valentine, Third U.S. Colored Troops.” (Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 139.2, April 2015)

Jonathan White, Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln.(Louisiana State University Press, 2014)

Jonathan White, Race, Slavery, and Freedom in the Ohio River Valley during the Civil War.” (Ohio Valley History 16.3, Fall 2016)

Jonathan White, When Emancipation Finally Came, Slave Markets Took on a Redemptive Purpose.” (, February 26, 2018)


Frederick Douglass’s Lasting Influence


The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass: In Pursuit of American Liberty, Nicholas BuccolaJonathan Bean, Frederick Douglass: Lion of Individualist Liberalism.” (The Beacon, February 21, 2018)

Jonathan Bean, Why Frederick Douglass Still Matters.” (The Beacon, July 6, 2009)

Nicholas Buccola, The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass: In Pursuit of American Liberty. (NYU Press, 2013)

Gregory Collins, Beyond Politics and Natural Law: The Anticipation of New Originalist Tenets in the Constitutional Thought of Frederick Douglass.” (American Political Thought 6.4, Fall 2017)

Anthony Lister Ives, Frederick Douglass’s Reform Textualism: An Alternative Jurisprudence Consistent with the Fundamental Purpose of Law.” (The Journal of Politics 80.1, January 2018)

Peter Myers, Frederick Douglass: Race and the Rebirth of American Liberalism. (University Press of Kansas, 2008)

Peter Myers, “Frederick Douglass’s America: Race, Justice, and the Promise of the Founding.” (The Heritage Foundation, January 11, 2011)

Peter Myers, “‘A Good Work for Our Race Today’: Frederick Douglass’s Freedmen’s Monument Speech.” (American Political Science Review 104.2, May 2010)

Diana Schaub, “The Spirit of a Free Man.” (Public Interest 140, Summer 2000)




Lincoln and Johnson political cartoonMichael Douma (co-author), The Danish St. Croix Project: Revisiting the Lincoln Colonization Program with Foreign-Language Sources.” (American Nineteenth Century History 15.3, 2014)

Michael Douma, Holland’s Plan for America’s Slaves.” (New York Times, July 11, 2013)

Michael Douma, The Lincoln Administration’s Negotiations to Colonize African Americans in Dutch Suriname.” (Civil War History 61.2, June 2015)

Allen Guelzo, “The History of Reconstruction’s Third Phase.” (History News Network, February 4, 2018)

The Supreme Court and American Constitutionalism, 1997James Patterson, Free Markets, Racial Equality, and Southern Prosperity: The Rise and Fall of Lewis Harvie Blair.” (Library of Law and Liberty, November 21, 2014)

Diana Schaub, “Lincoln and the Other Washington.” (Law & Liberty, February 15, 2016)

Rogers Smith, “Legitimating Reconstruction: The Limits of Legalism.” (Yale Law Journal 108, 1999)

Kyle Volk, Desegregating New York City: The Amazing pre-Civil War History of the Public Transit Integration in the North.” (, August 10, 2014)

Michael Zuckert, Fundamental Rights, the Supreme Court and American Constitutionalism: The Lessons of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.” (The Supreme Court and American Constitutionalism, Rowman & Littlefield, 1997)

Michael Zuckert, Natural Rights and the Post Civil War Amendments.” (Witherspoon Institute’s Natural Law, Natural Rights and American Constitutionalism, Online Resource Center, 2009)


American Political Development and Race Relations


Race & Liberty in America, Jonathan Bean (ed.)Jonathan Bean (editor), Race & Liberty in America: The Essential Reader. (University Press of Kentucky, 2009)

Michael Douma, A Black Dutchman and the Racial Discourse of the Dutch in America, 1850-1920.” (Dutch Crossing: Journal of Low Countries Studies 36.2, 2012)

Joshua Lynn, Preserving the White Man’s Republic: Jacksonian Democracy, Race, and the Transformation of American Conservatism. (University of Virginia Press, 2019)

Robert Saldin, What War’s Good For: Minority Rights Expansions in American Political Development.” (New Directions in American Politics, Routledge, 2013)

Thomas West (editor), Challenges to the American Founding: Slavery, Historicism, and Progressivism in the Nineteenth Century. (Lexington Books, 2004)


The Civil Rights Movement


William Allen, “Our Civil Rights Rest on Fundamental Arguments, Not Racial Ones.” (Law & Liberty, June 2, 2014)

The Fire is Upon Us - Nicholas BuccolaJonathan Bean, 50 Years of Mischief: The Triumph and Trashing of the Civil Rights Act.” (The Beacon, June 25, 2014)

Jonathan Bean, Civil Rights are Too Important to Leave to Special Interest Advocates.” (Daily Caller, January 16, 2015)

Jonathan Bean, A Manifesto for Liberty: Toward a New History of Civil Rights.” (What is Classical Liberal History?, Rowman & Littlefield, 2017)

Nicholas Buccola, The Fire is upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America. (Princeton University Press, 2019)

Nora Hanagan, Democratic Responsibility: The Politics of Many Hands in America. (Notre Dame Press, 2019)

Nicholas Jacobs (co-author), Extraordinary Isolation? Woodrow Wilson and the Civil Rights Movement.” (Studies in American Political Development 32.2, 2017)

Wilfred McClay,The Church of Civil Rights.” (Commentary 117.6, June 2004)

Laura Beth Nielsen (co-author), Dignity and Discrimination: Employment Civil Rights in the Workplace and in Courts.” (Chicago-Kent Law Review 92.3, 2017)

Democratic ResponsibilityLaura Beth Nielsen (editor), New Civil Rights Research: A Constitutive Approach. (Dartmouth/Ashgate Press, 2006)

Laura Beth Nielsen (co-author), The Procedural Attack on Civil Rights: The Empirical Reality of Buckhannon for Public Interest Litigation.” (UCLA Law Review 54, June 2007)

Laura Beth Nielsen (co-author), Race and Representation: Racial Disparities in Legal Representation for Employment Civil Rights Plaintiffs.” (Beyond Elite Law: Access to Civil Justice in America, Cambridge University Press, 2016)

Thomas Powers, “The transformation of liberalism, 1964 to 2001.” (The Public Interest, Fall 2001)

Stephen Presser, In the Latest Court Rulings: Civil Rights Remain Intact.” (New York Times “Room for Debate” Blog, November 11, 2016)

Joshua Rice, John E. Jacob.” (The Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896- Present: From the Age of Segregation to the Twenty-First Century, Oxford University Press, 2009)

Diana Schaub, “Solve for X: Malcolm X’s Strangely American Life.” (Claremont Review of Books XII.I, Winter 2011/12)

The Unsteady March, Rogers Smith, Philip KlinknerRogers Smith, Ackerman’s Civil Rights Revolution and Modern American Racial Politics.” (Yale Law Journal 123.8, 2014)

Rogers Smith, ‘Black’ and ‘White’ in Brown: Equal Protection and the Legal Construction of Racial Identities.” (Issues in Legal Scholarship 2.1, May 2003)

Rogers Smith (co-author), The Unsteady March: The Rise and Decline of Racial Equality in America.(University of Chicago Press, 1999)

Rogers Smith (co-author), The Unsteady March toward Racial Equality.” (The African- American Predicament, Brookings Institution, 1999)

Gregory Weiner, Evaluating the Moynihan Report on the Negro Family 50 Years Later.” (Online Library of Law and Liberty, March 2, 2015)



Martin Luther King Jr.


One Dream or Two? - Nathan SchlueterJustin Dyer (co-author), “Rawlsian Public Reason and the Theological Framework of Martin Luther King’s ‘Letter from Birmingham City Jail.” (Politics and Religion 6.1, 2013)

Peter Myers, “Civil Rights, the Civil Rights Act, and Martin Luther King, Jr.” (Law & Liberty, June 4, 2014)

Peter Myers, “Martin Luther King, Jr., and the American Dream.” (The Heritage Foundation, March 28, 2014)

James Patterson, “A Covenant of the Heart: Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Disobedience, and the Beloved Community.” (American Political Thought 7.1, Winter 2018)

Nathan Schlueter, One Dream or Two?: Justice in America and in the Thought of Martin Luther King Jr. (Lexington Books, 2003)

Andrew Trees, Civil rights movement, as Dr. King knew, was work of thousands.” (Chicago Sun-Times, January 15, 2018)

Click here to read more on the JMC Martin Luther King Jr. resource page >>



Modern African-American Figures, Influence, and Issues


Jonathan Bean, Rosa Parks Day: The Triumph of Colorblindness and Capitalism.” (The Beacon, November 20, 2015)

Mirya Holman (co-author), Gender, race, and political ambition: How intersectionality and frames influence interest in political office.” (Politics, Groups & Identities 6.2, 2018)

Mirya Holman (co-author), Marijuana Prohibition in California: Racial Prejudice, Selective-Arrests, and Today’s Marijuana Arrests.” (Gender, Race, and Class 19.3-4, 2012)

Race, Liberalism, and Economics, Sandra Peart (cont.)Mirya Holman (co-author), Social Capital and Solving the Puzzle of Black Women’s Political Participation.” (Politics, Groups, and Identities 2.3, 2014)

Nicholas Jacobs, Racial, Economic, and Linguistic Segregation: Analyzing Market Supports in the District of Columbia’s Public Charter Schools.” (Journal of Education and Urban Society 45.1, 2013)

Charles Kesler, Obama at Selma.” (National Review, April 6, 2015)

Charles Kesler, Thomas Cuts at Democrats’ Moral Capital.” (Los Angeles Times, July 4, 1991)

Emma Mackinnon, Declaration as Disavowal: The Politics of Race and Empire in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” (Political Theory, June 20, 2018)

Sandra Peart (co-author), Larry Moss and the Struggle Against Racism by the Whately Professors of Political Economy.” (American Journal of Economics and Sociology 69.1, January 2010)

Sandra Peart (co-author), The Negro Science of Exchange: Classical Economics & Its Chicago Revival.” (Race, Liberalism, and Economics, 2004)

Stephen Presser, Reading the Constitution Right: Clarence Thomas’s fidelity to our founding documents is making its mark on the Supreme Court.” (City Journal 17.2, Spring 2007)

Stephen Presser (co-author), Should Clarence Thomas be Chief Justice? (Legal Affairs, Debate Club, January 3, 2005)

Racial Liberalism and the Politics of Urban America, Rogers Smith (cont.)Stephen Presser, Touting Thomas: The Truth About America’s Most Maligned Justice.” (Legal Affairs, January-February 2005)

Rogers Smith (co-author), Challenging History: Barack Obama and American Racial Politics.” (Daedalus 140.2, Spring 2011)

Rogers Smith, Grasping the ‘Invisible Hands’: Race and Political Theory Today.” (Racial Liberalism and the Politics of Urban America, Michigan State University Press, 2003)

Rogers Smith (co-author), Racial Inequality and the Weakening of Voting Rights in America.” (Discover Society 33, June 1, 2016)

Evan Taparata, Slavery’s long shadow looms over the deaths of victims of police violence.” (Public Radio International, July 13, 2016)

Andrew Valls (co-author), Housing Discrimination as a Basis for Black Reparations.” (Public Affairs Quarterly 21.3, July 2007)

Andrew Valls, A Liberal Defense of Black Nationalism.” (American Political Science Review 104.3, August 2010)

Andrew Valls, Reconsidering the Case for Black Reparations.” (Reparations: Interdisciplinary Inquiries, Oxford University Press, 2007)

Kyle Volk, NYC’s 19th Century Rosa Parks.” (New York Daily News, August 4, 2014)


*If you are a JMC fellow who’s published on the African-American experience, slavery, or civil rights, and would like your work included here, send it to us at



Relevant Supreme Court Cases from the JMC First Amendment Library:

R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul (1992)

St. Paul, Minnesota, Capitol Building, Architecture, InternetA teenager in St. Paul, Minnesota was charged under a local ordinance pertaining to “Bias-Motivated Crime” after he took part in burning a cross on the lawn of a black family. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court overturned the teenager’s conviction on the grounds that the ordinance in question was overbroad, which is to say it was not “narrowly tailored” to restrict only the kinds of speech that are not protected by the First Amendment. The Court did not rule that no law could criminalize the burning of crosses on someone’s lawn–indeed it emphasized that doing so is illegal under ordinary criminal codes–but concluded only that the particular ordinance used in this case was unconstitutional.

Click here to read more in the JMC First Amendment Library >>


Virginia v. Black (2003)

In Virginia v. Black, the Supreme Court struck down a Virginia statute that criminalized cross-burning. The Court ruled that while states have the right to ban cross-burning when it is used to threaten or intimidate individuals, it cannot ban cross-burning as such. The statute in question explicitly stated that cross-burning was to be regarded as sufficient evidence “of an intent to intimidate a person or group.” It therefore cut off the opportunity of any defendants to argue that their particular burning of a cross was not intended to threaten anyone but was intended only as a symbolic expression of principles, however objectionable those principles might be.

Click here to read more in the JMC First Amendment Library >>



More resources for Black History Month:

Colonial Life for Freedmen and Slaves

The Old Plantation, John RoseAfrican-Americans played a crucial role in colonial American life – for example, during the 18th century, a full half of colonial Williamsburg’s population consisted of free and enslaved blacks. In memory of these residents, the Colonial Williamsburg website has gathered together historical articles on black everyday life at the time, including details of the conditions of slavery, the African-American family structure, and motivations to fight during the Revolutionary War.

Click here to visit the Colonial Williamsburg website >>


African-American Migrations

The Underground Railroad, Charles T. WebberSeveral black migrations, both forced and by free will, have occurred since colonial times. The PBS website maps these migrations as a part of Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. The webpage tracks migrations across hundreds of years, including the Middle Passage that brought many to death and enslavement, the Underground Railroad that brought many to freedom, and the Great Migration of the 20th century that brought greater economic opportunities.

Visit the PBS webpage >>


African-American Military Contributions

Tuskegee Airmen, Toni FrissellBlack servicemen have honorably served their country throughout America’s history, from the Battle of Lexington to recent conflicts in the Middle East. In honor of Black History Month, the U.S. Army offers an in-depth timeline of black military service. MilitaryTimes, a news website for veterans, also offers a variety of historical articles that specifically focus on the African-American military experience.

Click here to visit the U.S. Army timeline and click here to browse articles on >>



What So Proudly We Hail

Selma to Montgomery MarchThe What So Proudly We Hail online curriculum offers an ebook,“The Meaning of Martin Luther King Jr. Day,” that reflects on the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement and assess their efforts to overcome racial discrimination and to promote racial equality and integration.

Are we at last one nation, with liberty and justice for all? In this ebook, we reflect on the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, and assess their efforts to overcome racial discrimination and to promote racial equality and integration. The first chapter explores the origins and traditions of the Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration, with particular attention to the American character of the holiday. The second chapter presents powerful accounts of the black American experience during the era of racial segregation with a focus on showing the need for civil rights. The third chapter brings us to the Civil Rights Movement itself, evaluating the goals, strategies, and tactics of the Movement’s various leaders. The final chapter raises questions about the challenging and vexed issues left open in the wake of the successes of the Civil Rights Movement: equality; family, religion, and culture; and identity.

Each selection includes a brief introduction by the editors with guiding questions for discussion. Also unique to this collection is a never before published letter by coeditor Leon R. Kass about his and his wife Amy’s experience working with civil rights activists in Mississippi during the summer of 1965.

Read the ebook here >>


The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship

The Library of Congress exhibition The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship, has an online counterpart that explores its African American collections. Sections of the exhibit include “Free Blacks in the Antebellum Period,” “The Booker T. Washington Era,” and “The Depression, The New Deal, and World War II,” and feature artwork, letters, and photos from each era.


Click here to visit the online exhibit >>


*If you are a JMC fellow who’s published on the African-American experience, slavery, or civil rights, and would like your work included here, send it to us at



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