In Black Enlightenment Surya Parekh reimagines the Enlightenment from the position of the Black subject. Parekh examines the works of such Black writers as the free Jamaican Francis Williams (1697–1762), Afro-British thinker Ignatius Sancho (1729?–1780), and Afro-American poet Phillis Wheatley (1753?–1784), placing them alongside those of their white European contemporaries David Hume (1711-1776) and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). By rethinking the Enlightenment and its canons, Parekh complicates common understandings of the Enlightenment wherein Black subjects could exist only in negation to white subjects. Black Enlightenment points to the anxiety of race in Hume, Kant, and others while showing the importance of Black Enlightenment thought. Parekh prompts us to consider the timeliness of reading Black Enlightenment authors who become “free” in a society hostile to that freedom.
Acknowledgments ix Introduction 1 1. Black Enlightenment 23 2. (Dis)Figuring Kant 50 3. The Changing Rhetoric of Race 74 4. The Character of Ignatius Sancho 106 5. Phillis Wheatley’s Providence 131 Notes 153 Bibliography 177 Index 195
Surya Parekh is Assistant Professor of English, General Literature, and Rhetoric at Binghamton University and coeditor of Living Translation.
“Black Enlightenment does not excuse or accuse a monolithized ‘West,’ but rather shows how European theory could not acknowledge its transformation by Africa rising. Unusual and meticulous documentation, brilliant textual readings. Highly relevant to our annihilation of white supremacy.”
~Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, author of, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present
“Offering careful and close readings of key texts written by eighteenth-century Black thinkers, Surya Parekh decenters Kant and Hume from the Enlightenment to emphasize questions around enslavement, freedom, and subjecthood. This strong and important book will touch and inform many fields in current scholarship around the Black Atlantic and the intellectual history of the Enlightenment and beyond.”
~Laurent Dubois, coauthor of, Freedom Roots: Histories from the Caribbean