Introducing the Journal of Free Black Thought
A celebration of black viewpoint diversity
“Should we not then have a journal of free discussion, open to all sides of the problem and to all camps of belief? Difficult, that — but intriguing. Even if it has to begin on the note of dissent and criticism and assume Menckenian scepticism to escape the common-places of conformity. Yet, I hope we shall not remain at this negative pole. Can we not cultivate truly free and tolerant discussion, almost Socratically minded for the sake of truth?”
—Alain LeRoy Locke, “Art of Propaganda?” (1928)
Welcome to the Journal of Free Black Thought, a publication dedicated to foregrounding the widely diverse black perspectives that are rarely given room, and hence rarely encountered, in mainstream idea spaces. The Journal will publish essays that address black history, black intellectual history, and the history of black literature and the arts. It will publish reviews of contemporary literature and arts. And it will publish essays with heterodox takes on pressing concerns of the moment. It may even publish the occasional poem or piece of short fiction. (See below for a comprehensive list of the genres we publish.)
The Journal responds to what we take to be an emergency in our public discourse. Perhaps more than ever, we are admonished today to "listen to black voices." Yet also more than ever, self-appointed “black voices” and arbiters of acceptable black speech in academia, the media, and other elite institutions have empowered themselves to police the boundaries of the “authentically” black perspective and to limit the broader public’s sense of what black people—who are as divergent in their views as the members of any group, however defined—believe, value, and want. The Journal rejects the politics of authenticity and embraces difference and diversity in the conviction that the future of our public discourse—and hence of our democracy—depends on it.
The Journal is non-partisan. While the pieces that appear in its pages may advocate for this or that policy or program, in accord with a given author's ideological leanings, the Journal itself neither pursues nor promotes any political agenda beyond a commitment to free speech, civil rights, and a conviction that a pluralistic society committed to liberal democracy requires exposure to, and is nourished by, a truly broad spectrum of black thinking on matters of politics, society, the arts, and culture.
The Journal of Free Black Thought is an extension of the work we do through our website, www.freeblackthought.com, the centerpiece of which is our Compendium of Free Black Thought, a bibliography of heterodox writing by black authors. The Compendium—which is very much a work in progress—lists works by heterodox black authors topically (e.g., under the headings “Civil Rights,” “Racism,” and so on) and by genre (e.g., under the headings “Articles,” “Books: Non-fiction,” and so on). We have spent many hours discovering and cataloguing writings by heterodox black authors for the Compendium; the Journal represents our commitment to cultivating new writing that diverges from predictable narratives, by authors both well-known and unknown, and to making it widely available. In addition to the Compendium, our website features two other resources: first, a curated list of heterodox black podcasters and YouTubers, categorized in a rough-and-ready way by political ideology (e.g., “Liberal,” “Centrist,” “Conservative,” etc.); and, second, a list of organizations—many of them black-led—that we find inspiring or at least interesting or notable. These organizations are arranged under headings such as “K-12 ed,” “Policing,” “Political & civic culture,” and so on.
Finally, we have a Twitter account, where we post about events, new books, provocative articles, and organizations that are doing interesting things. Our handle is @FreeBlckThought.
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Genres published in JFBT (updated as we add more!):
Antiracism: reflections on the ideology and practice of “antiracism.”
Dialogue: conversations in print.
Event: announcements of upcoming FBT-related events.
From the editors: essays by the editors of Free Black Thought.
Inaugural essay: by Glenn Loury. ‘Nuff said.
Interview: Q&A between our editors and a guest.
Philosophy of race: reflections on the question, “What is race?”
Policy: policy proposals and analysis.
Research: original research with scholarly citations.
Review: art, book, film, and music reviews.
Soapbox: opinions from across—and beyond—the political spectrum.
Transcript: transcripts of FBT events, panel discussion, interviews, and so on.
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Subscribe to the Journal now so you don’t miss any of our offerings!
And please tell your friends about us!
Archibald J. Motley Jr. (1891–1981), Black Belt, 1934