Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 344
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    This is the first detailed account of the transnational encounter between African Americans and South Asians from the nineteenth century through the 1960s as they sought a united front against racism, imperialism, and other forms of oppression. It offers a fresh glimpse of Gandhi, Nehru, Booker T. Washington, Du Bois, and Martin Luther King Jr.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06296-2
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. Introduction: Words like Freedom
    (pp. 1-5)

    In the spring of 1941, in the midst of the Second World War, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya sat down in the “whites only” section of a segregated train traveling through the American South. Just across the Louisiana border, the ticket collector ordered her to move. She asked him why. “That is the rule,” he replied, “and you better obey it or you will regret it.” She did not move. He walked away angrily but soon returned—subdued, it seemed, by something he had learned. He asked her where she was from, making clear he realized she was not African American. “New York,”...

  4. CHAPTER ONE Race, Caste, and Nation
    (pp. 6-35)

    Over the course of the nineteenth century, the decline of slavery coincided with the expansion of empire. Emancipation came to the British Empire in 1833, to Russia’s serfs in 1861, to African Americans in 1865, and to Brazil in 1888. As systems of bondage differed widely, so did the degree of freedom granted former slaves. In the United States, after the brief period of hope that came with Reconstruction, former slaves faced a period of economic oppression, legal segregation, and terrorist violence that has been called the “nadir” of the African American experience. The demise of Reconstruction and the rise...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Racial Diplomacy
    (pp. 36-64)

    The war between European empires that erupted in August 1914 signaled to many contemporaries the decline of a global racially coded imperial order. “Watch and wait!” declared the African Times and Orient Review. “It may be that the non-European races will profit by the European disaster.” The Great War, African American columnist John Edward Bruce prophesied, would end “white domination” throughout the world.¹ Like Bruce’s personification of Africa and India as once powerful Samsons, appeals for unity between Blacks and Indians in the wake of the Great War often treated the Indian and African American communities as homogenous units. Advocates...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Colored Cosmopolitanism
    (pp. 65-92)

    Like the borders between nations, racial boundaries have been sites of contact and crossing. Also like national borders, racial divisions have been changed, invented, and erased. In the years between the First and Second World Wars, African Americans and Indians helped engineer one of the most creative and politically significant redefinitions of racial borders in the twentieth century—the invention of the colored world. When, in 1900, W. E. B. Du Bois prophesied, “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line,” he globalized the color line, referring not only to the “millions of black men...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Soul Force
    (pp. 93-124)

    In may 1924 Marcus Garvey’s newspaper, The Negro World, reported a speech given by the Indian poet Sarojini Naidu at a meeting of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Capetown, South Africa. As the meeting opened, an auditorium full of Black and Indian South Africans sang Christian hymns, including “The Lord Is King” and one of Gandhi’s personal favorites, “Lead, Kindly Light.” The hymns befitted Naidu’s speech. Linking Gandhi, Garvey, and Christ as prophets of pride in dark skin, Naidu offered her audience a conception of colored unity grounded in an emancipatory reading of Christian and Gandhian teachings. “The...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  9. CHAPTER FIVE Global Double Victory
    (pp. 125-160)

    On july 1, 1942, Mahatma Gandhi wrote Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Although beginning “Dear friend,” Gandhi came quickly to the point. He told Roosevelt, “I venture to think that the Allied declaration that the Allies are fighting to make the world safe for freedom of the individual and for democracy sounds hollow so long as India and, for that matter, Africa are exploited by Great Britain and America has the Negro problem in her own home.”¹ Beginning in 1942 Gandhi repeatedly connected the oppression of African Americans to the subjugation of India in order to expose the hypocrisy of the stated...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Building a Third World
    (pp. 161-201)

    In august 1946 African American sociologist St. Clair Drake reminded readers of The Pittsburgh Courier that African Americans had long understood “India’s fight as an integral part of the struggle everywhere against white imperialism and political domination.” Drake was disturbed, however, by “some mounting evidence that a Free India might conceivably act somewhat different from an India in the throes of a struggle for independence.” Indian students in the United States had “a tendency to shun Negroes as though they were lepers.” Shifting his focus to South and East Africa, Drake castigated Indian merchants and money lenders who had developed...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Nonviolence and the Nation
    (pp. 202-242)

    Fifteen years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, two young Black women were arrested on a bus near Petersburg, Virginia. Like Parks, both women were already actively engaged in the struggle for racial equality. By the time they boarded an old bus bound for Durham, North Carolina, in late March 1940, Pauli Murray and Adelene McBean had long discussed how they could most effectively challenge racial segregation. The poor condition of their bus gave them the opportunity to translate their thoughts into action. Seated near the back of the bus, directly...

  12. Conclusion: The Reflection of What Is
    (pp. 243-254)

    Beginning in the late nineteenth century, South Asians and African Americans learned from each other in ways that not only advanced their respective struggles for freedom but helped define what freedom could and should mean. This transnational exchange did not entail the clean transfer of ideas, practices, or identities. Rather, a complex process of self-transformation through self-recognition bridged struggles that were themselves internally diverse. Looking abroad and seeing oneself involved reflection in both senses of the word—a partial mirroring and a great amount of thought and practice.

    Proponents of unity between South Asians and African Americans often wrote as...

  13. Note on Usage
    (pp. 257-258)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 259-314)
  15. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 315-316)
  16. Index
    (pp. 317-321)