In celebration of Black History Month, we’ve chosen to publish a new reading list every week featuring only Black authors. The first reading list covered Black resistance, the second covered the Black American experience, the third covered biographies and this week’s reading list centers the Black international experience. While we may not all live in the same area of the world, many black people interestingly share a common treatment purely based off the color of our skin. Racism, or anti-blackness to be more specific, has plagued the black community wherever we’ve been or are currently. Outside of those negatives, we also share collective occurrences of rich culture, joy and resilience. Today’s reading list touches on the lived experiences of a few communities of black people living outside of America.
If you’re interested in purchasing any of these books, don’t forget to use code 01DAH40 at checkout to get 40% off; this discount code applies to any other UNC Press book as well.
EDITED BY MICHAEL O. WEST, WILLIAM G. MARTIN, FANON CHE WILKINS
Transcending geographic and cultural lines, From Toussaint to Tupac is an ambitious collection of essays exploring black internationalism and its implications for a black consciousness. At its core, black internationalism is a struggle against oppression, whether manifested in slavery, colonialism, or racism. The ten essays in this volume offer a comprehensive overview of the global movements that define black internationalism, from its origins in the colonial period to the present.
From Toussaint to Tupac focuses on three moments in global black history: the American and Haitian revolutions, the Garvey movement and the Communist International following World War I, and the Black Power movement of the late twentieth century. Contributors demonstrate how black internationalism emerged and influenced events in particular localities, how participants in the various struggles communicated across natural and man-made boundaries, and how the black international aided resistance on the local level, creating a collective consciousness.
BY ROBIN BROOKS
As downward mobility continues to be an international issue, Robin Brooks offers a timely intervention between the humanities and social sciences by examining how Black women’s cultural production engages debates about the growth in income and wealth gaps in global society during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Using an interdisciplinary approach, this innovative book employs major contemporary texts by both African American and Caribbean writers—Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor, Dawn Turner, Olive Senior, Oonya Kempadoo, Merle Hodge, and Diana McCaulay—to demonstrate how neoliberalism, within the broader framework of racial capitalism, reframes structural inequalities as personal failures, thus obscuring how to improve unjust conditions.
Through interviews with authors, textual analyses of the fiction, and a diagramming of cross-class relationships, Brooks offers compelling new insight on literary portrayals of class inequalities and division. She expands the scope of how the Black women’s literary tradition, since the 1970s, has been conceptualized by repositioning the importance of class and explores why the imagination matters as we think about novel ways to address long-standing and simultaneously evolving issues.
BY MONIQUE A. BEDASSE
From its beginnings in 1930s Jamaica, the Rastafarian movement has become a global presence. While the existing studies of the Rastafarian movement have primarily focused on its cultural expression through reggae music, art, and iconography, Monique A. Bedasse argues that repatriation to Africa represents the most important vehicle of Rastafari’s international growth. Shifting the scholarship on repatriation from Ethiopia to Tanzania, Bedasse foregrounds Rastafari’s enduring connection to black radical politics and establishes Tanzania as a critical site to explore gender, religion, race, citizenship, socialism, and nation. Beyond her engagement with how the Rastafarian idea of Africa translated into a lived reality, she demonstrates how Tanzanian state and nonstate actors not only validated the Rastafarian idea of diaspora but were also crucial to defining the parameters of Pan-Africanism.
Based on previously undiscovered oral and written sources from Tanzania, Jamaica, England, the United States, and Trinidad, Bedasse uncovers a vast and varied transnational network–including Julius Nyerere, Michael Manley, and C. L. R James–revealing Rastafari’s entrenchment in the making of Pan-Africanism in the postindependence period.
BY ANIMA ADJEPONG
Beyond simplistic binaries of “the dark continent” or “Africa Rising,” Africans at home and abroad articulate their identities through their quotidian practices and cultural politics. Amongst the privileged classes, these articulations can be characterized as Afropolitan projects–cultural, political, and aesthetic expressions of global belonging rooted in African ideals. This ethnographic study examines the Afropolitan projects of Ghanaians living in two cosmopolitan cities: Houston, Texas, and Accra, Ghana. Anima Adjepong’s focus shifts between the cities, exploring contests around national and pan-African cultural politics, race, class, sexuality, and religion. Focusing particularly on queer sexuality, Adjepong offers unique insight into the contemporary sexual politics of the Afropolitan class. The book expands and complicates existing research by providing an in-depth transnational case study that not only addresses questions of cosmopolitanism, class, and racial identity but also considers how gender and sexuality inform the racialized identities of Africans in the United States and in Ghana. Bringing an understudied cohort of class-privileged Africans to the forefront, Adjepong offers a more fully realized understanding of the diversity of African lives.
BY MELINA PAPPADEMOS
While it was not until 1871 that slavery in Cuba was finally abolished, African-descended people had high hopes for legal, social, and economic advancement as the republican period started. In Black Political Activism and the Cuban Republic, Melina Pappademos analyzes the racial politics and culture of black civic and political activists during the Cuban Republic.
The path to equality, Pappademos reveals, was often stymied by successive political and economic crises, patronage politics, and profound racial tensions. In the face of these issues, black political leaders and members of black social clubs developed strategies for expanding their political authority and for winning respectability and socioeconomic resources. Rather than appeal to a monolithic black Cuban identity based on the assumption of shared experience, these black activists, politicians, and public intellectuals consistently recognized the class, cultural, and ideological differences that existed within the black community, thus challenging conventional wisdom about black community formation and anachronistic ideas of racial solidarity. Pappademos illuminates the central, yet often silenced, intellectual and cultural role of black Cubans in the formation of the nation’s political structures; in doing so, she shows that black activism was only partially motivated by race.
BY DEVYN SPENCE BENSON
Analyzing the ideology and rhetoric around race in Cuba and south Florida during the early years of the Cuban revolution, Devyn Spence Benson argues that ideas, stereotypes, and discriminatory practices relating to racial difference persisted despite major efforts by the Cuban state to generate social equality. Drawing on Cuban and U.S. archival materials and face-to-face interviews, Benson examines 1960s government programs and campaigns against discrimination, showing how such programs frequently negated their efforts by reproducing racist images and idioms in revolutionary propaganda, cartoons, and school materials.
Building on nineteenth-century discourses that imagined Cuba as a raceless space, revolutionary leaders embraced a narrow definition of blackness, often seeming to suggest that Afro-Cubans had to discard their blackness to join the revolution. This was and remains a false dichotomy for many Cubans of color, Benson demonstrates. While some Afro-Cubans agreed with the revolution’s sentiments about racial transcendence–“not blacks, not whites, only Cubans”–others found ways to use state rhetoric to demand additional reforms. Still others, finding a revolution that disavowed blackness unsettling and paternalistic, fought to insert black history and African culture into revolutionary nationalisms. Despite such efforts by Afro-Cubans and radical government-sponsored integration programs, racism has persisted throughout the revolution in subtle but lasting ways.
BY SHERWIN K. BRYANT
In this pioneering study of slavery in colonial Ecuador and southern Colombia–Spain’s Kingdom of Quito–Sherwin Bryant argues that the most fundamental dimension of slavery was governance and the extension of imperial power. Bryant shows that enslaved black captives were foundational to sixteenth-century royal claims on the Americas and elemental to the process of Spanish colonization. Following enslaved Africans from their arrival at the Caribbean port of Cartagena through their journey to Quito, Bryant explores how they lived during their captivity, formed kinships and communal affinities, and pressed for justice within a slave-based Catholic sovereign community.
In Cartagena, officials branded African captives with the royal insignia and gave them a Catholic baptism, marking slaves as projections of royal authority and majesty. By licensing and governing Quito’s slave trade, the crown claimed sovereignty over slavery, new territories, natural resources, and markets. By adjudicating slavery, royal authorities claimed to govern not only slaves but other colonial subjects as well. Expanding the diaspora paradigm beyond the Atlantic, Bryant’s history of the Afro-Andes in the early modern world suggests new answers to the question, what is a slave?
BY JEAN CASIMIR
In this sweeping history, leading Haitian intellectual Jean Casimir argues that the story of Haiti should not begin with the usual image of Saint-Domingue as the richest colony of the eighteenth century. Rather, it begins with a reconstruction of how individuals from Africa, in the midst of the golden age of imperialism, created a sovereign society based on political imagination and a radical rejection of the colonial order, persisting even through the U.S. occupation in 1915.
The Haitians also critically retheorizes the very nature of slavery, colonialism, and sovereignty. Here, Casimir centers the perspectives of Haiti’s moun andeyo—the largely African-descended rural peasantry. Asking how these systematically marginalized and silenced people survived in the face of almost complete political disenfranchisement, Casimir identifies what he calls a counter-plantation system. Derived from Caribbean political and cultural practices, the counter-plantation encompassed consistent reliance on small-scale landholding. Casimir shows how lakou, small plots of land often inhabited by generations of the same family, were and continue to be sites of resistance even in the face of structural disadvantages originating in colonial times, some of which continue to be maintained by the Haitian government with support from outside powers.