The Origins of Black Conservative Thought
Evangelicals, Entrepreneurs, and Booker T. Washington
Many liberals think of black conservatives, past and present, as willfully blinded by their ideological commitments. When it comes to matters of racial empowerment, liberals tend to believe that black conservatives either fail to appreciate or deliberately choose to ignore the prevailing social, political, and economic realities that affect, often quite negatively, the lives of black Americans. Liberals are thought to be particularly sensitive and responsive to lived conditions of everyday people. By contrast, black conservatives are frequently viewed as aloof and distant, if not supremely out of touch with members of the black community and the issues that prove most confounding to black people.
Like most stereotypes, the caricatured image of the black conservative and black conservative thought does not bear the weight of serious scrutiny. As surprising as it may seem, the origins of black conservative thought reveal a deep and sustained connection to the lived experiences of black Americans. Indeed, black conservative thought is sourced from the distinctly African American Christian evangelical tradition of antebellum northern black society. Black conservatism would later evolve from Christian evangelism to a more ecumenical conservative entrepreneurial moralism, which would serve as the touchstone for nineteenthcentury black conservative thought in the North. Following the Civil War, a renewed commitment to reintegration of the South focused political at-