The Empire Abroad and the Empire at Home

The Empire Abroad and the Empire at Home: African American Literature and the Era of Overseas Expansion

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 168
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    The Empire Abroad and the Empire at Home
    Book Description:

    In The Empire Abroad and the Empire at Home, John Cullen Gruesser establishes that African American writers at the turn of the twentieth century responded extensively and idiosyncratically to overseas expansion and its implications for domestic race relations. He contends that the work of these writers significantly informs not only African American literary studies but also U.S. political history. Focusing on authors who explicitly connect the empire abroad and the empire at home ( James Weldon Johnson, Sutton Griggs, Pauline E. Hopkins, W.E.B. Du Bois, and others), Gruesser examines U.S. black participation in, support for, and resistance to expansion. Race consistently trumped empire for African American writers, who adopted positions based on the effects they believed expansion would have on blacks at home. Given the complexity of the debates over empire and rapidity with which events in the Caribbean and the Pacific changed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it should come as no surprise that these authors often did not maintain fixed positions on imperialism. Their stances depended on several factors, including the foreign location, the presence or absence of African American soldiers within a particular text, the stage of the author's career, and a given text's relationship to specific generic and literary traditions. No matter what their disposition was toward imperialism, the fact of U.S. expansion allowed and in many cases compelled black writers to grapple with empire. They often used texts about expansion to address the situation facing blacks at home during a period in which their citizenship rights, and their very existence, were increasingly in jeopardy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4468-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Empire at Home and Abroad
    (pp. 1-16)

    Best known for the role it plays in the “Forethought” to The Souls of Black Folk (1903), W. E. B. Du Bois’s famous declaration “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line” (100) originally appeared three years earlier in “The Present Outlook for the Dark Races of Mankind.” In this speech he delivered at the third annual meeting of the American Negro Academy in Washington, D.C., in March 1900, Du Bois makes the statement in the context of the “new imperial policy” (53) the United States was implementing in the wake of its victory over...

  5. Part 1. African American Literature and the Spanish-Cuban-American War
    • CHAPTER ONE Cuban Generals, Black Sergeants, and White Colonels: The African American Poetic Response to the Spanish-Cuban-American War
      (pp. 19-38)

      In The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of U.S. Culture (2003), Amy Kaplan sees “a battle raging over the interconnected representations of race, manhood, nation, and empire” (125) in the conflicting black and white representations of what she refers to as the “legendary” events on San Juan Hill.¹ She notes that Theodore Roosevelt’s account of the battle ends not with “a cathartic shootout with Spanish soldiers, but with a sustained confrontation with African American soldiers that caps the horizontal narrative, throughout the report, of the increasing intermingling of blacks and whites” (126). By depicting himself threatening to shoot retreating...

    • CHAPTER TWO Wars Abroad and at Home in Sutton E. Griggs’s Imperium in Imperio and The Hindered Hand
      (pp. 39-60)

      Between 1899 and 1908, Sutton E. Griggs (1872–1933) published five long works of fiction, making him the most prolific late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century African American novelist. For a variety of reasons, these texts about black and white southerners have frustrated attempts by critics to arrive at definitive interpretations. In contrast to his more famous contemporaries Paul Laurence Dunbar and Charles Chesnutt, whose books, brought out by mainstream northern publishers, were marketed to white readers, Griggs “spoke primarily to the Negro race” (Du Bois, “Negro” 318), using his own Nashville-based Orion Publishing Company to print all but the first...

  6. Part 2. African American Literature, the Philippine-American War, and Expansion in the Pacific
    • CHAPTER THREE Black Burdens, Laguna Tales, and “Citizen Tom” Narratives: African American Writing and the Philippine-American War
      (pp. 63-95)

      Helen H. Jun has coined the term “black orientalism” to refer to representations of Chinese people in the black press in the second half of the 1800s and the early 1900s. Rather than categorizing it as either racist or antiracist, Jun contends that black orientalism, which draws on the discourses of U.S. orientalism and black racial uplift, must be seen as a “contradictory process of negotiation” of the citizenship status of blacks vis-à-vis other racialized groups in the United States (1049). On the one hand, African American journalists contrasted their people’s religiosity and long-standing commitment to U.S. ideals with the...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Annexation in the Pacific and Asian Conspiracy in Central America in James Weldon Johnson’s Unproduced Operettas
      (pp. 96-112)

      In Afro-Orientalism, Bill V. Mullen contends that U.S. black engagement with Asia began with a series of articles W. E. B. Du Bois published in the Crisis; however, as established in chapter 3 and confirmed in the ensuing discussions of James Weldon Johnson’s libretti for operettas dating from 1899, it occurred earlier in the context of and in response to the U.S. policy of overseas expansion at the turn of the twentieth century. Since the early 1990s, considerable critical attention has been devoted to the relationship between U.S. cultural productions and imperialism. More recently, scholars have begun to address the...

  7. CODA: Pauline Hopkins, the Colored American Magazine, and the Critique of Empire Abroad and at Home in “Talma Gordon”
    (pp. 113-126)

    Although some critics, beginning with Gwendolyn Brooks in 1978, have cast Pauline Hopkins (1859–1930) as a conservative, Booker T. Washington regarded her very differently. Alarmed by what he deemed the radical nature of her own writings and those of others that she published in the Colored American Magazine, the most powerful African American leader of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century actively took steps to silence her. Hopkins’s April 16, 1905, letter to Boston Guardian editor and Washington antagonist William Monroe Trotter suggests that she lost her position at the magazine in part because of her commitment to...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 127-138)
  9. Works Cited
    (pp. 139-152)
  10. Index
    (pp. 153-159)