African and African Disapora Studies Department
African and African Disapora Studies Department

Professor Stephen Marshall publishes 'The City on the Hill from Below: The Crisis of Prophetic Black Politics'

Tue, July 12, 2011

About City on the Hill from Below: The Crisis of Prophetic Black Politics

Within the discipline of American political science and the field of political theory, African American prophetic political critique as a form of political theorizing has been largely neglected. Stephen Marshall, in The City on the Hill from Below, interrogates the political thought of David Walker, Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. DuBois, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison to reveal a vital tradition of American political theorizing and engagement with an American political imaginary forged by the City on the Hill. Originally articulated to describe colonial settlement, state formation, and national consolidation, the image of the City on the Hill has been transformed into one richly suited to assessing and transforming American political evil. The City on the Hill from Below shows how African American political thinkers appropriated and revised languages of biblical prophecy and American republicanism.

Praise for City on the Hill from Below

"The City on the Hill from Below is an interesting, provocative, and important project, and Marshall has engaged deeply and profitably with his primary texts. He makes arguments that bear directly on important current debates. The most original aspects of Marshall’s book are its contribution to Africana political thought and its insistence on linking Africana thought to American thought. There is a laudably Ellisonian insight at the heart of this work: the idea that black thinkers were part of a quintessentially American tradition and that we can’t really understand them or America until we understand this connection."
Paul C. Taylor, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Penn State University

"The City on the Hill from Below is an engaging exploration of a great theme. Marshall provides a very able analysis of the major African American political writers he examines: David Walker, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison. He unites them by interpreting them through a promising lens: black political thinkers responding to one of the central tropes of American political and religious culture, the nation as a ‘city on a hill.’ Greatly to his credit, Marshall highlights, throughout, limitations in the political vision of each thinker, even if he sees them as representing a tradition that we would do well to recover if we could." 
Rogers M. Smith, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania


Stephen Marshall is Assistant Professor in the African and African Diaspora Studies Department and the Department of American Studies.

Bookmark and Share