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Black Cosmopolitans

Black Cosmopolitans examines the lives and thought of three extraordinary black men—Jacobus Capitein, Jean-Baptiste Belley, and John Marrant—who traveled extensively throughout the eighteenth-century Atlantic world. Unlike millions of uprooted Africans and their descendants at the time, these men did not live lives of toil and sweat in the plantations of the New World.



Marrant was born free, while Capitein and Belley became free when young, and this freedom gave them not only mobility but also the chance to make significant contributions to print culture. As public intellectuals, Capitein, Belley, and Marrant developed a cosmopolitan vision of the world anchored in the republican ideals of civic virtue and communal life, and so helped radicalize the calls for freedom that were emerging from the Enlightenment.

Relying on sources in English, French, and Dutch, Christine Levecq shows that Calvinism, the French Revolution, and freemasonry were major inspirations for this republicanism. By exploring these cosmopolitan men’s connections to their black communities, she argues that the eighteenth-century Atlantic world fostered an elite of black thinkers who took advantage of surrounding ideologies to spread a message of universal inclusion and egalitarianism.


Black Cosmopolitans introduces a new and valuable concept into scholarship. Although the phrase ‘black cosmopolitan’ has appeared here and there, it has always been in passing, without much evidence or thought about cosmopolitanism. This book is the first effort at a deep reflection on black cosmopolitanism—and it is an excellent one. A major and original contribution to African American literary history and religious history, it should become one of the top 25 books ever published on the early African Atlantic.”

–John Saillant, Western Michigan University, author of Black Puritan, Black Republican: The Life and Thought of Lemuel Haynes, 1753-1833

About the Author:

Christine Levecq is Associate Professor of Humanities at Kettering University and the author of Slavery and Sentiment: The Politics of Feeling in Black Atlantic Antislavery Writing, 1770-1850.

Christine Levecq
Black Cosmopolitans; Race, Religion, and Republicanism in an Age of Revolution
The University of Virginia Press
Cloth · 304 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813942186 · $45.00 · Jun 2019
Ebook · 304 pp. · ISBN 9780813942193 · $45.00 · Jun 2019

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