Philosophy PhD graduate makes history

Dr Miron Clay-Gilmore becomes first Black philosopher to earn a doctorate on Africana Philosophy & Black Male Studies in the University’s history.

Miron Clay-Gilmore photo

To call Miron’s journey into academia unconventional would be an understatement. He self-effacingly describes himself as a D-student at High School. This wasn’t due to a lack of drive or ability, more a lack of inspiration in what was being taught and an unstable housing situation.

“I wasn’t much of a scholar in high school. All the things I was interested in, none of them were on the curriculum. I was looking up ancient African history, but I was supposed to be doing something else. Anytime they put me in front of a computer, I had other tabs open.”

After graduating High School, Miron joined the United States Marine Corps where he served for four years. Miron studied a philosophy of logic course at community college before utilising the GI Bill to enroll on the BA in Philosophy at the University of Missouri St. Louis (UMSL).

It was clear to the faculty at UMSL that Miron was a gifted student. For example, every year the Chair of the Department of Philosophy invites staff to submit nominations for student of the year, in his graduating year, every single nomination was for Miron.

During his time at UMSL, Miron discovered the work of Professor Tommy Curry one, of the world’s leading scholars in Africana philosophy and Black male studies, who he began corresponding with, before eventually meeting at a book signing in St. Louis. This marked the beginning of a mentorship between the two philosophers.

It was Professor Curry, a first generation student himself, who suggested that Miron pursue postgraduate studies at The University of Edinburgh.

I'm a first-generation student, I didn't even know what a PhD was.

Miron Clay-Gilmore

The prospect of studying so far away from home was daunting for Miron, particularly given that he would have to leave his wife and young children behind.

Fortunately, he found the transition to studying at a UK university to be a positive one.

I could tell just right away the intellectual environment and climate was completely different. It was the first time I was in a classroom setting and I didn't feel like I was being micromanaged. To have space to work was very fresh.

It was great being around different people from different countries at such an international School and, being able to contribute and develop intellectually.

Miron Clay-Gilmore

Since completing his studies at the University this year, Miron has started a position as Postdoctoral Research Associate at the world-renowned Purdue University.

For Professor Tommy Curry, Dr Gilmore exemplifies the best interdisciplinary training offered in Black Thought at Edinburgh.

Professor Curry (Personal Chair in Africana philosophy and Black male studies) states,

"Black American males are one of the most under-represented populations in the United States academy. Black males have been roughly a third of Black doctoral degree recipients throughout the 2000s. As faculty at American university, Black males are in the minority being outnumbered by several tens of thousands by their female counterparts. Similarly, Black academic staff comprise roughly 2% of an almost 234,000 academic workforce throughout U.K. universities."

Professor Curry praised Dr. Gilmore’s research as courageous and path breaking in Africana philosophy, since it conveys the evidence of years of research that challenges, if not refutes, many of the dogmas concerning Black males, Black militancy, and the American Civil Rights Era.

"Dr Gilmore’s dissertation combines the historical, sociological, and conceptual foundations of Black philosophy to understand an under-researched and largely ignored aspect of racial domination.

It was a pleasure to advise Dr Gilmore. His work in Black Male Studies and Africana Philosophy represents a shift towards a more rigorous anti-colonial philosophy in Scotland and signals the seriousness of producing scholarship against the racist legacies of Enlightenment thinking seeking to codify Black inferiority and white supremacism at the close of the 18th century."

Asked how it feels to be the University of Edinburgh’s first Black philosopher to reach this milestone, Miron states:

I feel like black people in America represent a certain type of survival. We're not really known on the world stage. We don't have a world presence outside of the US, outside of the narrative of the US state and US prosperity, but I made my dissertation Thinking for the bound and dead for a reason.

My work is emblematic of not just Black America, but a certain underclass segment of Black America because I am not a traditional student, not just based on race, but just as a person. I'm not just a military veteran, but also, come from a poor background. I have siblings and loved ones who didn't live past 16, didn't live past 21. Who never got to meet my children. It’s emblematic of my grandfather, who tried to get a graduate education and couldn't in Jim Crow America. It’s emblematic of survival, and a positive virtue. What I think is a positive virtue for all of humanity.

Miron Clay-Gilmore

More information, including some of Dr. Clay-Gilmore's previous work is available below: