Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Uday S. Mehta

Subject Categories

African American Studies | American Studies | Political Science


American Culture, American Politics, Literature, Political Theory, Race


This dissertation examines how twentieth-century African American intellectuals engaged American political cultural beliefs central to American identity. A prominent argument of American political thinkers has been that the liberal-democratic ideals of freedom, equality, representative government, the rule of law, tolerance and civic obligation are what make Americans a unique people. From the immediate aftermath of the Second World War to the late twentieth-century such an argument provided American politicians, social movements and intellectuals a strong justification for divergent political claims, from Cold War warriors calling for the containment of Soviet Communism, to Civil Rights activists calling for racial integration to neoconservatives calling for the dismantlement of the social welfare state. This dissertation studies how one group of African American intellectuals writing in this period, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison and Toni Morrison, sought to provide counter-cultural narratives to dominant American understandings of freedom, democracy and generosity. I examine these revisions to shed light on each thinker's theoretical contributions, our understanding of the politics and art of African American intellectuals and the canon of political thought itself.