Book cover: The South Carolina Roots of African American Thought

Book cover: The South Carolina Roots of African American Thought

CLEMSON — Clemson University researchers Rhondda Thomas and Susanna Ashton have co-authored a new book titled “The South Carolina Roots of African American Thought” that defines a new field — regional African-American intellectual thought — by assembling a collection of writings by national intellectuals and demonstrating how their South Carolina origins shaped both their ideas and the direction of the United States of America.

“South Carolina has always loomed larger in the national imagination, particularly in terms of political and social policy, than its size and population might justify,” said Thomas.

The book features 19 thinkers, educators and policymakers whose birth dates range from 1811 to 1994. The anthology is divided into four units:

  • Unit 1: Slavery and Abolition
  • Unit 2: The Talented Tenth
  • Unit 3: The Civil Rights Legacy
  • Unit 4: The Media Generation

South Carolinians always have used their passions to influence national debate. Edward Rutledge challenged the condemnation of the slave trade in the initial draft of the Declaration of Independence; John C. Calhoun penned the audacious philosophy of state nullification; cadets from The Citadel fired shots at Fort Sumter; and Sen. Strom Thurmond defended racial segregation with the longest filibuster in Senate history.

The authors seek in this collection to remedy the singularly narrow way in which South Carolina’s intellectual character has been defined in the popular imagination. They document an equally important tradition that parallels that of white radical thought. Through this anthology they reveal a tradition of national prominence and influence of black intellectuals, educators, journalists and policy analysts from South Carolina.

“These native and adopted citizens mined their experiences to shape their thinking about the state and the nation,” Ashton said.

Francis Grimké, Daniel Payne, Mary McLeod Bethune, Kelly Miller, Septima Clark, Benjamin Mays, Marian Wright Edelman and Jesse Jackson have changed this nation with their questions, challenges and persistence — all in the proudest South Carolinian tradition.

In The South Carolina Roots of African American Thought, each of the 19 authors is introduced with a supplementary scholarly essay to illustrate the cultural and historical import of their works and to demonstrate how they draw on and distinguish themselves from one another. These connections exhibit a coherent legacy of engagement, brought on and nurtured by South Carolina traditions.