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Spectres of 1919

Spectres of 1919: Class and Nation in the Making of the New Negro

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Spectres of 1919
    Book Description:

    With the New Negro movement and the Harlem Renaissance, the 1920s was a landmark decade in African American political and cultural history, characterized by an upsurge in racial awareness and artistic creativity. In Spectres of 1919 Barbara Foley traces the origins of this revolutionary era to the turbulent year 1919, identifying the events and trends in American society that spurred the black community to action and examining the forms that action took as it evolved._x000B__x000B_Unlike prior studies of the Harlem Renaissance, which see 1919 as significant mostly because of the geographic migrations of blacks to the North, Spectres of 1919 looks at that year as the political crucible from which the radicalism of the 1920s emerged. Foley draws from a wealth of primary sources, taking a bold new approach to the origins of African American radicalism and adding nuance and complexity to the understanding of a fascinating and vibrant era.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09124-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. 1 The New Negro and the Left
    (pp. 1-69)

    Writing in The New Negro in 1925, Alain Locke was purportedly describing a self-evident state of affairs when he proclaimed that the “deep feeling of race” currently being manifested as the “mainspring of Negro life” is “radical in tone, but not in purpose” and that “only the most stupid forms of opposition, misunderstanding or persecution could make it otherwise.” Although, Locke conceded, “the thinking Negro has shifted a little toward the left with the world-trend, and there is an increasing group who affiliate with radical and liberal movements,” at present “the Negro is radical on race matters, conservative on others,...

  5. 2 Nation, Class, and the Limits of the Left
    (pp. 70-121)

    In the crucible of 1919, a class-based analysis of racism enjoyed widespread currency among liberals, progressives, and leftists; the struggle against racial inequality was frequently linked with the necessity to transform or abolish capitalist social relations. But if this was the case, why was this trend reversed? How did the New Negro devolve into The New Negro, with apparently little opposition? Theodor Adorno would have it that, with the failure of the bid for working-class power, politics flees to the realm of the aesthetic—that when the “time for political art” recedes, “politics . . . migrate[s] into autonomous art.”...

  6. 3 The Rhetoric of Racist Antiradicalism
    (pp. 122-158)

    Thus far the derivation of the New Negro movement in the political radicalism of the wartime and immediate postwar years and various contradictions internal to the theory and practice of the Left that would contribute to the supersession of class struggle by culturalism have been analyzed. In future chapters of Spectres of 1919, the attempts by radicals and progressives to fashion counterdiscourses to the rhetoric of 100 percent Americanism are examined and linked to Alain Locke’s culturalist manifesto in The New Negro. At this point, however, the nature and extent of the ruling-class ideological offensive in the wake of the...

  7. 4 Metonymic Nationalism, Culture Wars, and the Politics of Counterdiscourse
    (pp. 159-197)

    Having explored the substance and rhetoric of racist antiradicalism, the dominant ideology informing political discourse and rationalizing state and business repression amidst the social upheavals of 1919 and its Thermidorian aftermath, I now examine various attempts by progressives and leftists to construct counterdiscourses that would use the master’s tool of pluralist democracy to dismantle the master’s house of 100 percent Americanism. The culture wars of the early 1920s were waged on various fronts, all of which cannot be treated here. To understand the forces that would decisively influence the transmutation of the New Negro as leftist warrior into the New...

  8. 5 From the New Negro to The New Negro
    (pp. 198-250)

    Returning to the question raised at the outset of this inquiry, how did the arms-bearing, anticapitalist New Negro of 1919 get transmuted into the culture hero of The New Negro (1925 )? While the causal threads are many, Alain Locke’s guiding role is clearly of central importance. In this chapter, I investigate the bodies of theory Locke brought to the making of his anthology; examine his pragmatist theory of “secondary race consciousness” and the aporias attendant upon it; demonstrate the expunging of radicalism and the consolidation of nationalism—simultaneously Negro and American—in his creation of The New Negro out...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 251-294)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 295-314)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 315-316)