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PPE Talk: Peter C. Myers

The Problem of Revolution and Liberty: Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Parr Center Event
  • Department talk
  • PPE event
When Feb 18, 2014
from 05:30 pm to 07:00 pm
Where Hyde Hall -- University Room
Contact Name
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Peter C. Myers is a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire.  He is the author of Our Only Star and Compass: Locke and the Struggle for Political Rationality.

Abstract: The problematic relation of revolution to liberty—the problem of so conducting an effort to overthrow an unjust order as to prepare society’s reconstitution on grounds of equal, ordered liberty—was a preoccupation for the two greatest exemplars of the revolutionary spirit in black American history, Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr. Both affirmed the higher-law principles informing the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, both conceived of the black American struggle to secure the blessings of liberty for all Americans irrespective of race as a grand, revolutionary cause, and both were concerned about the proneness of the revolutionary spirit to dangerous excess. With respect to the specific meaning of revolution and the practical conditions of liberty, however, they differ significantly. This paper will explicate and assess Douglass’s and King’s respective arguments, and, in particular by exploring their differences, to gain insight into the complexity and difficulty of the general problem of revolution and liberty.