The Black Public Sphere and Black Civil Society

Michael C. Dawson

in The Oxford Handbook of African American Citizenship, 1865-Present

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780195188059
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Politics & International Relations

The Black Public Sphere and Black Civil Society

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  • US Politics
  • Political Behaviour



This article offers a brief discussion of the concepts of “civil society” and “public sphere” and investigates their utility for our thinking about African American political struggle. It examines the core ideological constellations found within the black public sphere. It also examines historically how African Americans came to see themselves as a group with specific political interests. Looking at distinct periods in African American history, the article begins its historical foray by discussing the networks used in community building under slavery. The article goes on to explore the political importance of Reconstruction and the retrenchment of white supremacy in the South; it also chronicles the period from 1910 until the beginning of World War II when African American political and social action gradually moved from the South to the North.

Keywords: black civil society; political struggle; African Americans; black public sphere; Reconstruction; white supremacy

Article.  12985 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Political Behaviour

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