In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, the Marxists behind the Black Lives Matter movement went on the prod with in-your-face identity politics and extortionate demands. Before the dust was settled, the leaders of the organization reaped a windfall of donations from kowtowed Fortune 500 companies, a sizeable amount of which ultimately disappeared. Little noticed because the mainstream media never covered it was a rearguard action among Black educators seeking to reclaim the Great Books as their own. In Academic Questions, a publication of the National Association of Scholars, Juliana Pilon, Senior Fellow, The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization, sheds light on their efforts.
In “Black Educators Do the Classics,” Dr. Pilon reviews “The Black Intellectual Tradition: Reading Freedom in Classical Literature” by Anika Prather and Angel Adams Parham. The co-authors, she notes, “possess a strong commitment to preserve . . . ‘our common heritage in the classics and the liberal arts.’” Indeed, the Great Books, as the authors found out, had undergirded the great Black thinkers of the past. Frederick Douglass, Richard Wright, and Martin Luther, among others, were all molded in their thinking by the classics.
Anika Prather, the daughter of a Black minister, had her eyes opened by reading Thucydides. She went on to initiate, observed Dr. Pilon, “her own classical school. Her students read the Great Books, learn Latin, logic, and classical history interwoven with black and African history.” Her co-author, Angel Adams Parham, a life-long learner, spent the last ten years steeping herself in the Great Books, “including Tocqueville, Rousseau, and Dante in addition to the ancient Greeks and Romans.” Much to her surprise, she found herself not alone “in being a Black woman intensely drawn to the classics.” Identity politics had intellectually straitjacketed Black students of both these admirable women.
A Classical School Network operates in the South Bronx and other locations. The Classical Academic Press publishes a series of which Parham and Prather’s publication stands as one of the most recent examples. “Now there,” observes Dr. Pilon in her concluding paragraph, “is something to celebrate.”