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Race to Revolution

Race to Revolution: The U.S. and Cuba during Slavery and Jim Crow

Gerald Horne
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Race to Revolution
    Book Description:

    The histories of Cuba and the United States are tightly intertwined and have been for at least two centuries. In Race to Revolution, historian Gerald Horne examines a critical relationship between the two countries by tracing out the typically overlooked interconnections among slavery, Jim Crow, and revolution. Slavery was central to the economic and political trajectories of Cuba and the United States, both in terms of each nation's internal political and economic development and in the interactions between the small Caribbean island and the Colossus of the North. andnbsp;Horne draws a direct link between the black experiences in two very different countries and follows that connection through changing periods of resistance and revolutionary upheaval. Black Cubans were crucial to Cuba's initial independence, and the relative freedom they achieved helped bring down Jim Crow in the United States, reinforcing radical politics within the black communities of both nations. This in turn helped to create the conditions that gave rise to the Cuban Revolution which, on New Years' Day in 1959, shook the United States to its core.andnbsp;andnbsp; Based on extensive research in Havana, Madrid, London, and throughout the U.S., Race to Revolution delves deep into the historical record, bringing to life the experiences of slaves and slave traders, abolitionists and sailors, politicians and poor farmers. It illuminates the complex web of interaction and infl uence that shaped the lives of many generations as they struggled over questions of race, property, and political power in both Cuba and the United States.

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-458-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 7-27)

    The africans¹ were apprehensive—with good reason.

    It was early in 1862 and the nation in which they resided, the United States, was embroiled in a bloody civil war. As such, the Washington authorities sought to send hundreds of them to Key West to work on fortifications, as this small town was well behind the lines of the so-called Confederate States of America—which dominated most of Florida—and had sought secession precisely on the grounds of continuation of enslavement of Africans. But the Africans asked to take on this important task balked, assuming this might be a prelude to...

  4. CHAPTER 1 Spanish Florida Falls, Cuba Next?
    (pp. 28-44)

    There was a cry among the people. “The Spanish Negroes; the Spanish Negroes; take up the Spanish Negroes.”¹

    This was the anguished response in Manhattan in 1741 when one of the more significant uprisings among the enslaved erupted—and Africans from Cuba, who were in and out of this rapidly growing port town regularly, were blamed. This created numerous complications.² This finger-pointing was an aspect of the larger competition between London and Madrid for hegemony in the hemisphere and a reflection of the fact that Spain stole a march on its competitor by militarizing Africans more consistently. Africans were a...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Texas, Cuba, and the African Slave Trade
    (pp. 45-64)

    Alexander hill everett was displeased.

    This Harvard man and U.S. ambassador to Spain was considering Cuba and was not happy with what he envisioned. It was November 1825, a few years after Spain’s abrupt ouster from Florida and the racist reign of terror engineered by the republicans that soon followed. Yet that was not what had focused his attention. “The white population” of Cuba, he said, “form too small a proportion of the whole number to constitute themselves as an independent state,” and considering that both Mexico and Colombia—where those of African descent played leading roles—were considering annexing...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Africans Revolt!
    (pp. 65-81)

    John forsyth was not pleased.

    On 6 September 1839 this slaveholder from Georgia, then serving as U.S. secretary of state, informed the Spanish authorities that weeks earlier within Cuban waters, fifty-three Africans aboard theAmistadschooner revolted and slew the captain, the chef, and two crewmen, leaving alive only two of their colleagues who were ordered to guide the vessel to Africa. Instead, the captives—formerly captors—sailed along the U.S. coast before somehow arriving in New London, Connecticut. The U.S. authorities detained the Africans, then sent them to New Haven where a trial ensued to determine their fate. Abolitionists...

  7. CHAPTER 4 The United States to Seize Cuba to Prevent “Africanization”?
    (pp. 82-99)

    Frederick douglass was struck by what he had heard.

    In the spring of 1850 his journal reported with astonishment that the “number of American travelers” in Cuba “on the 20th of March was so great that the hotels could hardly contain them.” Why? “Rumors are rife,” the article said portentously, “of plots to revolutionize Cuba.”¹ Months earlier an “armed invasion” of Cuba was nigh,² since “agents of the disaffected slave-owners of Cuba” were “cooperating with some of our citizens in arranging an expedition [to spur] civil war in Cuba.”³ Douglass found it curious that “hundreds and perhaps thousands of American...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Slavery Ends in the United States—and Cuba?
    (pp. 100-122)

    Mary chestnut was beaming.

    This spouse of a former U.S. senator was a grand dame of elite South Carolina society that was then in the throes of prosecuting a bloody rebellion against Washington in order to preserve slavery (she and her husband owned hundreds of Africans). Yet in August 1861 she was ecstatic to be in the company of Ambrosio Gonzales: “a handsome Spaniard—Cuban—leader of rebellion there too” was her generous description. He was a “fine person” and “has a fine voice. He sings divinely” and was well-connected too within the so-called Confederate States of America, the slaving...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Toward De Facto Annexation of Cuba
    (pp. 123-150)

    As the u.s. civil war unwound, Spain was trapped. For decades it had engaged deftly in a delicate game of political arbitrage, manipulating the interstices between abolitionist London and slaving Washington, managing to hold on to Cuba because neither of these major powers wanted the other to prevail. But when the United States moved toward abolition of slavery, mimicking Britain, Spain’s room for maneuver was reduced correspondingly.

    However, there was another party in this multifaceted relationship that both complicated Spain’s position and, it was thought, allowed an opportunity for further maneuvering: Haiti. The United States felt compelled—finally—to recognize...

  10. CHAPTER 7 War! And Jim Crow Enforced in Cuba
    (pp. 151-175)

    By the end of 1898, marriages between U.S. Negro men and Cuban women were no longer deemed to be overly unusual.

    The declaration of war upon Spain earlier that year—which led to a de facto annexation of Cuba and the ouster of Madrid after hundreds of years of colonial rule—led to the dispatching to the island of three full regiments of African-American men, mostly to the province of Santiago which also had a full complement of Negroes; these included detachments from Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Illinois among other states, all of which had their own unique version...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Race/War in Cuba?
    (pp. 176-203)

    James tillman was prepared to kill.

    This nephew of South Carolina’s premier politician, “Pitchfork” Ben, had been pummeled in the press by Narciso G. Gonzales and then finished a poor third place in the 1902 gubernatorial primary. On 15 January 1903 he spotted the scribe of illustrious Cuban origin on a major thoroughfare in Columbia and promptly pulled his German Lugar pistol and shot him in the abdomen. Gonzales crumpled to the ground and died four days later. But it was as though he had killed a Negro or slaughtered a hog, for Tillman was acquitted.¹

    In addition to eviscerating...

  12. CHAPTER 9 The Rise of the Reds—on the Mainland and the Island
    (pp. 204-231)

    Dr. ramon costello had good reason to be furious.

    He was Cuban, but the U.S. nationals in Hungary in 1931 perceived him as a Negro: therefore they sought to bar him from a hotel swimming pool.¹ Formerly of New York City, he was no stranger to Jim Crow but may have thought his sojourn in Budapest and then Paris would have exempted him from the long arm of Uncle Sam. This was occurring in a nation where the proto-fascist Miklos Horthy ruled. When the mayor promptly issued an order mandating his use of the contested waters it suggested that—in...

  13. CHAPTER 10 War! And Progress?
    (pp. 232-259)

    Langston hughes and his cuban comrade, Nicolás Guillén, were under fire.

    In 1937 both were in Barcelona—headed south to Valencia—where they, along with many others, had come to show solidarity with the valiant Spanish republic, now being bombarded by the descendants of those responsible for foisting distress upon countless Africans over the centuries—the precursors of fascism, in other words. Paul Robeson, the famed artist and activist, was there too along with, as Hughes indicated, “ordinary Negroes like those I met in the Cuban club in Barcelona.”¹

    Hughes and Guillén had arrived in Barcelona at a time when...

  14. CHAPTER 11 Race to Revolution
    (pp. 260-276)

    Digna castañeda fuertes was taken aback.

    Ambling down a Havana street in the 1950s, this young Cuban woman suddenly spotted a group of U.S. Marines. “It was scary enough for a young black Cuban woman to see this foreign force,” she recalled years later but what startled her was the stunning reality that these men were “totally racially divided, black troops marched on one side and whites on the other. I had never seen Cuban people so starkly separated like that.”¹

    Like the lunar tides, the mainland had exerted a determined pull on the island for centuries in a process...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 277-403)
  16. Index
    (pp. 404-429)