Michael Sawyer, assistant professor in Colorado College’s Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies program and English Department, has published a new book, “Black Minded: The Political Philosophy of Malcolm X.”
Known as “the angriest black man in America,” Malcolm X was one of the most famous activists to ever live. Sawyer’s book goes beyond biography and examines Malcolm X’s philosophical system.
“The motivation for writing this came from a realization that even with the regard I had for Malcolm X as an activist, I was not taking him seriously as a thinker,” says Sawyer, who also is director of CC’s Africana Intellectual Project. “This book is an attempt to do that and also, frankly, a love letter to Malcolm X in honor of all he has done for me.”
Sawyer argues that the foundational concepts of Malcolm X's political philosophy — economic and social justice, strident opposition to white supremacy and Black internationalism — often are obscured by an emphasis on biography. The book, published by Pluto Press, demonstrates how Malcolm X’s philosophy lies at the intersection of the thought of W.E.B. Du Bois and Frantz Fanon and is an integral part of the revolutionary politics formed to alleviate the plight of people of African descent globally.
A review of “Black Minded” by American scholar and poet Fred Moten, whose work explores critical theory, Black studies, and performance studies, was “especially helpful for me to place the text for myself,” says Sawyer. In the review, Moten writes that “‘Black Minded’ doesn’t give Malcolm X his rightful place in the canon of political philosophy so much as raise political philosophy to a height it never dared to reach by requiring and allowing it to ground with our brother.”
“This was very enriching for me because that is what Africana Studies is supposed to be about the business of accomplishing,” says Sawyer. “Not trying to force our thought upon the Western canon, but making it impossible for the Western canon to ignore these contributions.”
Sawyer, who joined the Colorado College faculty in 2015, also is the author of “An Africana Philosophy of Temporality: Homo Liminalis,” published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2019 and a finalist for the American Philosophical Association’s First Book Prize. He holds a Ph.D. in Africana Studies from Brown University, master’s degrees from the University of Chicago’s Committee on International Relations (International Security Policy) and Brown University’s Department of Comparative Literature, and a B.S. in political science from the United States Naval Academy.