Tommie Shelby is an American philosopher. Since 2013, he has served as the Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African American Studies and of Philosophy at Harvard University. He is particularly known for his work in Africana philosophy, social/political philosophy, social theory (especially Marxist theory), and philosophy of social science.
Education and career
Shelby earned his B.A. in philosophy from Florida A&M University (1990) and Ph.D. in philosophy with a certificate in cultural studies from the University of Pittsburgh (1998). His dissertation, Marxism and the Critique of Moral Ideology, was directed by David Gauthier. Before moving to Harvard as an assistant professor in 2000, he was an assistant professor of philosophy at Ohio State University from 1996 to 2000. He was the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard from 2004 to 2007. Shelby is the second black scholar to be tenured in the philosophy department at Harvard. The first was Kwame Anthony Appiah, now a professor at New York University. He currently serves as an editor of Transition Magazine and of the Du Bois Review. In 2015, he was elected to the Pulitzer Prize Board.
Research areas and publications
Shelby is the author of We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity (Harvard University Press, 2005). The book discusses the history of black political thought from Martin Delany to Malcolm X and extrapolates a new theory for black political solidarity consistent with liberal values of individual liberty, social equality, and cultural tolerance. Orlando Patterson says of the book, "[Shelby's] book contests the movement's central claims at a level of sociophilosophical sophistication that one rarely encounters." Bill Lawson, in his review of Shelby's book in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, describes it as a "provocative and insightful book." He continues, "Professor Shelby has done a great service to both philosophical and historical academic studies. He has in clear and lucid terms presented the basic assumptions underlying Black Nationalism, the collective-identity thesis, and interracial and intra-racial coalitions in the fight for social justice. What makes this book worth reading beyond the scholarship and its scholarly insights is Professor Shelby's attempt to move Black Nationalism into the post-civil rights era."
Shelby is also the co-editor of Hip-Hop and Philosophy: Rhyme 2 Reason with Derrick Darby. In his review of the book, Tommy J. Curry says that it is "...a great work that inhabits the tension between the sterile thought of the academy and the rich lives of many young urban Americans." Shelby has also co-edited Transition 99 with Henry Louis Gates Jr., K. Anthony Appiah and F. Abiola Irele, and is the author of the entry on Black Nationalism in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy On-Line.
Shelby is the son-in-law of Harvard philosopher Thomas Scanlon.
- Tommie Shelby (2005). We Who Are Dark. Harvard University Press.
- Patterson, Orlando (8 January 2006). "Being and Blackness". New York Times.
- Lawson, Bill (4 June 2006). "We Who Are Dark (Review)". Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
- Tommie Shelby (2005). Hip-Hop and Philosophy: Rhyme 2 Reason. Open Court.
- Curry, Tommy J. (2006). "Review of Hip Hop and Philosophy: Rhyme 2 Reason". Kinesis. 33 (2).
- Henry Louis Gates, Jr.; Kwame Anthony Appiah; Tommie Shelby; F. Abiola Irele (2007). Transition 99. Soft Skull Press.