Recommended Readings for Black History Month

Portrait of Frederick Douglass

In recognition of Black History Month, the Jack Miller Center presents the following publications by JMC fellows on historically prominent black Americans, key events in black history, and influential documents authored by black thinkers. We encourage you to take some time this month to consider black history in light of America’s founding principles.


The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass: In Pursuit of American Liberty

Nick Buccola

Frederick Douglass, one of the most prominent figures in African-American and United States history, was born a slave, but escaped to the North and became a well-known anti-slavery activist, orator, and author. In The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass, Nicholas Buccola provides an important and original argument about the ideas that animated this reformer-statesman. Beyond his role as an abolitionist, Buccola argues for the importance of understanding Douglass as a political thinker who provides deep insights into the immense challenge of achieving and maintaining the liberal promise of freedom. Douglass, Buccola contends, shows us that the language of rights must be coupled with a robust understanding of social responsibility in order for liberal ideals to be realized. Truly an original American thinker, this book highlights Douglass’s rightful place among the great thinkers in the American liberal tradition.

>>Order the book on Amazon.

Nick BuccolaProfessor Nick Buccola joined the Linfield faculty in 2007. His teaching and research interests are in Political Theory and Public Law. His first book, “The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass,” was published by New York University Press and was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. His second book, “The Essential Douglass,” was published by Hackett Publishing Company in March 2016. His third book, “Abraham Lincoln and Liberal Democracy,” was published in the distinguished American Political Thought series of the University Press of Kansas in March 2016. His scholarly essays have been published in a wide range of journals including The Review of Politics and The Journal of American Political Thought. His reviews and op-eds have been featured in a wide variety of publications including Salon, the Claremont Review of Books, and Dissent. He is at work on a new book on James Baldwin and William F. Buckley Jr. Professor Buccola is a recipient of the Allen and Pat Kelley Faculty Scholar Award, a two-time recipient of the Samuel Graf Faculty Achievement Award, and a National Endowment of the Humanities Enduring Questions grant.

Professor Buccola is directing this year’s JMC-Murdock Pacific Northwest Conference: Why Frederick Douglass Matters: A Bicentennial Symposium. The conference will take place at Linfield College as part of the Frederick Douglass Forum on Law, Rights, and Justice.

April 27 • 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Linfield College • Nicholson Library



The Spirit of a Free Man

By Diana Schaub

Diana Schaub writes about the timelessness of Frederick Douglass’ teachings in his three autobiographies and the particular insight they offer to 21st century Americans grappling with race relations.

>>Read the article at The New Atlantis. 

Diana SchaubDiana Schaub is professor of political science at Loyola University Maryland. Schaub received both her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. She teaches and writes on a wide range of issues in political philosophy and American political thought. She is the co-editor of What So Proudly We Hail: America’s Soul in Story, Speech, and Song, and Erotic Liberalism: Women and Revolution in Montesquieu’s “Persian Letters.”



The History of Resconstruction’s Third Phase

By Allen Carl Guelzo

Allen Guelzo writes about the complexity of the Reconstruction era in the United States and the many approaches to reunifying America envisioned at the time. He argues that viewing Reconstruction as a “bourgeois revolution” marks it as a distinctly American event.

>>Continue Reading at the History News Network website. 

Allen GuelzoDr. Allen C. Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era, and Director of Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College. He is the author of Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President, which won the Lincoln Prize for 2000, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America, which won the Lincoln Prize for 2005, and Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates That Defined America, which won the Abraham Lincoln Institute Prize for 2008. His most recent work in Lincoln is Abraham Lincoln As A Man of Ideas (a collection of essays published in 2009 by Southern Illinois University Press) and Lincoln, a volume in Oxford University Press’s ‘Very Short Introductions’ series (also 2009). His book on the battle of Gettysburg, Gettysburg: The Last Invasion (Knopf, 2013) spent eight weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. His articles and essays have appeared in scholarly journals, and also in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, and he has been featured on NPR, the Discovery Channel, the National Geographic Channel, and Brian’s Lamb’s BookNotes, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.



Lincoln and the Other Washigton

Diana Schaub

Diana Schaub explains that Booker T. Washington’s speech, “Address on Abraham Lincoln,” outlines models for both blacks and whites to imitate in a society wounded by racism and segregation.

>>Continue reading at the Law and Liberty library.



Solve for X

Diana Schaub

Diana Schaub considers Malcolm X’s thoughts on the disenfranchisement of black Americans and his reflections on the nature of politics.

>>Read her article at the Claremont Review of Books. 



One Dream or Two?: Justice in America and in the Thought of Martin Luther King Jr

Nathan Schlueter

In this 2003 book, JMC fellow Nathan Schlueter expounds in detail Martin Luther King Jr.’s political thought. One Dream or Two? is a critical historical, constitutional, and philosophical examination of Martin Luther King Jr’s understanding of justice―his “Dream”―from within the context of the American political tradition. Nathan Schlueter introduces King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” and then isolates elements of his larger vision for social justice―paying special attention to issues of racial discrimination, political economy, civil disobedience, and the relationship between politics and religion―situating those elements within historical, rhetorical, and political context.

>>Order the book on Amazon.

Nathan SchlueterNathan Schlueter is a professor of philosophy and religion at Hillsdale College. His research spans a variety of topics, including the libertarian-conservative debate, the thought of Wendell Berry, and family ethics. Professor Schlueter received his BA at Miami University and his PhD from the University of Dallas.



Our Civil Rights Rest on Fundamental Arguments, Not Racial Ones

W.B. Allen

In a 2014 article for the Library of Law and Liberty, JMC fellow W.B. Allen offers a critical examination of King’s role in framing civil rights legislation. He explains King’s understanding of rights and questions whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 presupposes an adequate conception of rights.

>>Read his article on the Law and Library website.

W.B. AllenProfessor William B. Allen is a professor of Political Philosophy in the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, and 2008-09 Visiting Senior Scholar in the JMC partner program Matthew J. Ryan Center for the Study of Free Institutions and the Public Good at Villanova University. He also served previously on the National Council for the Humanities and as Chairman and Member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He was recently the Ann & Herbert W. Vaughan Visiting Fellow in the James Madison Program on American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He is an expert on liberal arts education, its history, importance and problems. He is also Chairman and co-founder of Toward A Fair Michigan, whose mission was to further understanding of the equal opportunity issues involved in guaranteeing civil rights for all citizens, and to provide a civic forum for a fair and open exchange of views on the question of affirmative action.



Civil Rights, the Civil Rights Act, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Peter C. Myers

Peter C. Myers, a JMC fellow, responds to and elaborates on W.B. Allen’s above article in the Library for Law and Liberty. He discusses King’s conception of justice  and the evolution of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 .

>>Read his article on the Law and Liberty Website.

Peter C. Myers is Professor of Political Science, specializing in political philosophy and U.S. constitutional law, at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He earned his B.A. in Political Science from Northwestern University and his Ph.D. in Political Science from Loyola University Chicago. His Ph.D. dissertation, “John Locke on the Naturalness of Rights,” received the American Political Science Association’s Leo Strauss Award for the Best Doctoral Dissertation in the Field of Political Philosophy in 1992.



Are you a JMC fellow? Have you published on Black History Month or related topics? Do you take issue with any of the views expressed here? If so, send us your work to and we will include it here.

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