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The Philosophical Treatise of William H. Ferris

The Philosophical Treatise of William H. Ferris

Tommy J. Curry


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There exists a very rich, but largely untapped well of African American philosophical thought, in which many Black thinkers were debating the role philosophy played in racial advancement among themselves. One such work that demonstrates this vibrant tradition is William H. Ferris’s The African Abroad or, His Evolution in Western Civilization: Tracing His Development under Caucasian Milieu. In 1913, Ferris composed and published one of the most authoritative encyclopedias of Black (African-American) thought and Black civilization. The African Abroad was well known and widely engaged with in Black debates about philosophy, politics and history through the mid-1900’s, yet has largely disappeared from contemporary scholarship.

The text itself offers readers the first evidence of a Black idealist philosophy of history that seeks to explain the evolution of the Negro race the world over. The African Abroad establishes a system of thought starting from God, the revelation of knowledge God offers humanity through history, and finally the Negro problem. Ferris offers the world a Black philosophical perspective currently unavailable in any collection of Black authors. He is a racial idealist who offers systematic thinking about the world faced by the Negro in the first decade of the 20th century. This edition includes Ferris's Philosophical Treatises from Sections I-III from The African Abroad. Tommy J. Curry includes two comprehensive introductory essays highlighting the significance of Ferris’s text in the study of African American philosophy, and the possible contributions Ferris’s thoughts on ethnological thought, the philosophy of history and the role of race play in the larger field of American philosophy.
Tommy J. Curry is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Affiliate Professor of Africana Studies at Texas A&M University. He is a Ray A. Rothrock Fellow and has commented on social matters in venues ranging from Forbes to Sirius XM. He is the author of 50 articles on issues of racism, Black intellectual history, and Black political theory.
The publication of selections from William H. Ferris’s The African Abroad is a long overdue event. Ferris’s ideas that racial redemption will come from African American contributions to western civilization and that black folk need an educated leadership of the highest talents are nothing new. Given his unique philosophical perspective and conclusions that rub against established orthodoxies, however, Ferris’s work casts new light on the insights and dilemmas of black intellectuals of the early 20th century, and is worth serious consideration.
Ernest Allen Jr., Emeritus Professor of Afro-American Studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
cover a
frontmatter i
contents vii
acknowledgments ix
preface 1
introduction 19
part one 49
chapter one 51
chapter two 71
chapter three 89
chapter four 107
chapter five 125
part two 159
chapter six 161
chapter seven 167
chapter eight 185
chapter nine 199
part three 213
chapter ten 215
chapter eleven 233
further reading 241
index 243