About Free Black Thought

Ryan Davis, Lenox Lounge, Harlem, NYC, (date unknown)

Black thought varies as widely as black individuals.

There are black conservatives and liberals, socialists and free-marketeers, traditionalists and radicals, theists and atheists, everything in between, and more besides. FREE BLACK THOUGHT seeks to represent the rich diversity of black thought beyond the relatively narrow spectrum of views promoted by mainstream outlets as defining "the black perspective." You'll find the thinkers represented here to be frequently non-conforming, often provocative, sometimes contrarian, but always enriching.

Ryan Davis, Lenox Lounge, Harlem, NYC, (date unknown)
Ryan Davis, Lenox Lounge, Harlem, NYC, (date unknown)

Here, we uplift those black voices that are harder to hear against the background of media noise but whose message is just as or even more vital.

Lois Mailou Jones, Heritage
Lois Mailou Jones, Heritage
Lois Mailou Jones, Heritage (Illustration for Important Events and Dates in Negro History), 1936

This site is a resource for those who are curious about those black voices.

We have compiled a searchable, topically arranged bibliography of black thinkers outside the mainstream—a Compendium of FBT—including books, published essays, journal articles, and social media accounts. We also Tweet regularly, publish essays in our Journal of FBT, host an FBT YouTube channel, and maintain lists of essential podcasters/YouTubers and organizations we find important or merely interesting. If you’d like to share a resource with us, contact us and we’ll add it. Free your mind with FREE BLACK THOUGHT.

Norman Lewis, Untitled Oil On Canvas/Jazz Band, 1949

"Listen to black voices" is a demand heard constantly these days.

But you would hardly guess from the black voices that are favored in mainstream venues—pushed by Amazon or adapted by HBO—just how wide the range of black thinking on matters of politics, society, and culture really is. We have nothing against these mainstream perspectives: indeed, they are crucial to the ongoing discussion about all the issues that matter to us. But we do not seek to represent them here. You know where to find them: just turn on CNN or open the New York Times.

Norman Lewis, Untitled Oil On Canvas/Jazz Band, 1949
Norman Lewis, Untitled Oil On Canvas/Jazz Band, 1949
Photo by Seven Shooter on Unsplash

About Us

We are a small group of scholars, technologists, parents, and above all American citizens determined to amplify vital black voices that are rarely heard on mainstream platforms.

As citizens, we pursue no political agenda other than a commitment to free speech, civil rights, and a conviction that a pluralistic society committed to liberal democracy is nourished by the entire spectrum of black thinking on matters of politics, society, and culture.

As parents, we are troubled that our children, black and non-black alike, are coming of age at a time when K-12 schools and elite institutions such as academia, major media companies, and corporations appear committed to enforcing narrow and tendentious standards of black racial authenticity in thought and behavior. We hope our efforts inspire our children to see their blackness as a space not of constrained identity but of endless possibility.

As scholars and technologists, some of us currently serve in organizations that might look unkindly upon our efforts to celebrate black diversity. We regret that some of us must therefore for the time being remain anonymous.

There isn't a narrative, one black narrative—there's 40 million.

Brittany Talissa King
The New Liberals Podcast - 8: Exploding Groupthink

[T]he United States is in actuality not a nation of black people and white people. It is a nation of multicolored people. There are white Americans so to speak and black Americans. But any fool can see that the white people are not really white, and that the black people are not black. They are all interrelated one way or another.

Albert Murray
The Omni-Americans: Some Alternatives to the Folklore of White Supremacy, 1970.

Quite simply, Murray stood for complexity, and the black experience was—and is, and always will be—complex. What he was saying is that there is no prescription for being black, no program to conform to, despite what groups were calling for from their various corners.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
“Foreword” to the Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of Albert Murray's Omni-Americans.

Founders

  • Michael Bowen is a Business Intelligence professional and Data Engineer, a past contributor to NPR, Cafe Utne, Young Republicans and TV One, and an essayist at Stoic Observations. He tweets here.

  • Dave Gilbert is a technologist and serial entrepreneur who currently manages a team of ethnographers, social scientists, and user experience researchers at a large search engine company. A former college professor of communication, Dave is interested in the intersection of technology, culture, and identity. He tweets here.

  • Dr. Tabia Lee is a lifelong educator and educational sociologist. Dr. Lee is a trained critical discourse analyst, curriculum and instructional designer and evaluator, sacred dialogue facilitator, and certified yoga instructor. She is committed to better understanding teacher ideology-in-practice and developing more humanistic and holistic teacher education programs and policies. She teaches at DeAnza college.

  • Jason Littlefield brings two decades of experience as an educator to his role as Executive Director of EmpowerED Pathways and as designer of Compassionate Humanism, a humanity-centered framework for life, leadership, and learning. He tweets here.

  • Jake Mackey is Associate Professor of Classics at Occidental College, where he teaches Greek and Latin languages and literatures and their transformative reception by African-American writers. He is faculty advisor for the student Persuasion club, which provides a space for the free exchange of ideas on campus. He grew up between Austin, TX, and a small village in Kerala, in south India. The darker side of his experience in India—growing up in a cult—is captured in this film. He is planning a memoir about the brighter side. He is the author of Belief and Cult: Rethinking Roman Religion (Princeton University Press, 2022). He tweets here.

  • Connie Morgan is a Christian, wife, mother and UX Researcher located in the Pacific Northwest. Connie has a background in economics and public relations and has worked in higher ed and marketing. She served five years in the United States military as a military intelligence officer. Her main research and writing interests are the family, education, and personal liberty generally.  She tweets here.

  • Erec Smith is an Associate Professor of Rhetoric at York College of Pennsylvania. Although he has eclectic scholarly interests, Smith’s primary work focuses on the rhetorics of anti-racist activism, theory, and pedagogy. He is the president of the Foundation for Free Black Thought. Smith’s recent books include A Critique of Anti-Racism in Rhetoric and Composition: The Semblance of Empowerment (2020) and The Lure of Disempowerment: Reclaiming Agency in the Age of CRT (2022). He tweets here.