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The Insistent Call

The Insistent Call: Rhetorical Moments in Black Anticolonialism, 19291937

Aric Putnam
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    The Insistent Call
    Book Description:

    Throughout the nineteenth century, African heritage played an important role in black America, as personal memories and cultural practices continued to shape the everyday experience of people of African descent living under the shadow of slavery. Resisting efforts to deAfricanize their values, customs, and beliefs, black Americans invoked their African roots in public arguments about their identity and place in the “new” world. At the outset of the twentieth century many still saw Africa primarily as the source of a common cultural and spiritual past. But after the 1920s, the meaning of African heritage changed as people of African descent expressed new relationships between themselves, the United States, and the African Diaspora. In The Insistent Call, Aric Putnam studies the rhetoric of newspapers, literature, and political pamphlets that expressed this shift. He demonstrates that as people of African descent debated the United States’ occupation of Haiti, the Liberian labor crisis, and the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, they formed a new collective identity, one that understood the African Diaspora in primarily political rather than cultural terms. In addition to uncovering a neglected period in the history of black rhetoric, Putnam shows how rhetoric that articulates the interests of a population not defined by the boundaries of a state can still motivate collective action and influence policies.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-221-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Rhetoric and Diaspora
    (pp. 1-14)

    In 1924, at a Civic Club gathering to celebrate Jessie Fauset’s bookThere Is Confusion, Alain Locke was asked to edit a special issue ofSurvey Graphicmagazine. Locke’s objective was to shed light on African America’s Harlem and to document the sociological and artistic developments that were creating a “black mecca” in a New York neighborhood.¹ The result of his labors, eventually published asThe New Negro: An Interpretation, has been considered the “first national book” of black America and the “Bible” of the New Negro Movement, the loose collective of social and cultural elites who debated black identity...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Politics and Practices of Colonialism
    (pp. 15-32)

    Black anticolonial rhetoric emerged in the context of America’s history with colonialism. What “colonialism” was (is) and America’s relationship to it are issues of public and scholarly debate today. This chapter explores colonialism from both historical and theoretical perspectives in a search to understand the implications of colonialist discourse for domestic rhetorical cultures. My purpose is to provide an operational definition of colonialism and a historical and political context for the emergence of colonial practices not only relative to the United States but also in the broader frameworks of imperialism and empire.

    Contemporary scholars of discourse study colonialism primarily through...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Black Ethos and the Rhetoric of Pan-Africa
    (pp. 33-52)

    In the previous chapter, I sketched a history of imperialism and identified the politics and cultural practices with which colonialism operates. I argued that colonialist practices were founded on the belief that cultures were distinct and that commerce between them occurred through diffusion. According to the diffusionist paradigm, a more developed “metropolitan” culture always existed at the spatial “center” of world-historical narratives. Cultures on the periphery evolved to higher stages of civilization through imitation of the metropole. In return, the periphery supplied the metropole with raw goods like labor or natural resources. In economic terms, this relationship was asymmetrical, because...

  7. CHAPTER 3 “Unhappy Haiti”: U.S. Imperialism, Racial Violence, and the Politics of Diaspora
    (pp. 53-73)

    In the first quarter of the twentieth century, people of African descent in the New World argued about what Africa could mean to its people in diaspora. These arguments took the form of speeches, essays, poems, newspapers, music, and visual art. By and large, much of this discourse operated within the same assumptions about the nature of culture and parameters of black public space that structured the Pan-African rhetoric of W. E. B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey: black ethos was frequently expressed in terms of a spiritual unity, founded in Africa and distributed among the African Diaspora. Although many...

  8. CHAPTER 4 “Modern” Slaves: The Liberian Labor Crisis and the Politics of Race and Class
    (pp. 74-96)

    The violence at aux cayes inspired the United States to initiate a policy called “Haitianzation,” which gradually ceded political power to Haitian authorities. The same violence encouraged people of African descent in the United States to question their relationships to Africa, its diaspora, and United States democracy. As the colonial policies of the occupation became public knowledge, black Americans recognized a common experience with racial violence and expressed sympathy for Haiti’s people. In this sense, the U.S. occupation of Haiti and its accompanying racist violence increased the relevance of the African Diaspora to black ethos within the United States. That...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Ethiopia Is Now: J. A. Rogers and the Italian Invasion of Ethiopia
    (pp. 97-118)

    When he responded to the Liberian labor crisis, George Schuyler expressed a black ethos that encompassed the African Diaspora and echoed with the voice of labor. His novelSlaves Todaysuggested that black workers around the globe shared a position within modernity: they were subject to the dehumanizing bureaucracies of the bourgeoisie and the imposition of racial thinking upon their daily lives, both of which created discrete, calcified cultural spaces. The main character of the novel exhibited an ability to navigate these artificially distinct contexts, and this “mobility” served as the ground for black American empathy with Africa. In this...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Anticolonial Rhetoric and Black Civil Rights History
    (pp. 119-130)

    In 1935, samuel daniels, founder of the Pan-African Reconstruction Association and a prominent Harlem race advocate, suggested that Haiti, Liberia, and Ethiopia should unite and form a single corporation. He reasoned that this economic conglomerate could compete with European imperialism and establish a transnational base of “African” political power. Although the idea may seem fanciful, even utopian, Daniels’s vision of African-Diasporic community was complex; his plan for a Pan-African, anticolonial corporation was motivated by a need for economic self-defense and thus gave the lie to the putative altruism that justified European imperialism. Also, although Daniels was attempting to shift the...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 131-154)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 155-157)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 158-158)