You are on page 1of 17

TOWARD A TRANSNATIONAL

RESEARCH AGENDA FOR


AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY IN THE
21st CENTURY
Gerald Home*
"Globalization" is the buzzword ofthe first decade ofthe 21st century, a
development which comes as no revelation to close students of African
American history, who, after all, scrutinize a people with roots in Africa who
now sojourn in North America, Still, "globalization" should be a major theme
for any viable research agenda in African American history, not least since
the growing interdependence of this planet bids fair to have a transforming
impact on the people who have come to be known as African Americans, as
jobs traditionally relied upon for sustenance migrate relentlessly abroad, which
suggests that this century will involve an ever increasing level of global
interdependence. Of course, since employmentor slaverywas the primary
reason why Africans were brought to North America in the first place, it
comes as no great surprise that political economy is a primary lens through
which we should view the fate of African Americans,
The acceleration of globalization, with its handmaidens of the World
Wide Web, super-sonic transport, the proliferation of English-language skills
and the like, suggests that if one's work-product can be digitized, or if one's
job can be performed more profitably abroadand that includes attorneys,
architects, x-ray technicians, along with factory workersthen one runs the
risk of being "dis-intermediated" or, basically, unemployed. Consequently,
more than most, African Americans, whose status in this nation is perennially
parlous, should be conversant with global developments and conscious of
some of the historical trends that have brought us to this point.
Moreover, as scholars have informed us at length, it is no accident that
the miserable system of Jim Crow segregation began to retreat precisely as
World War II and the Cold War were unfolding: how could the United States
purport to be a paragon of human rights virtue in the face of Japan's claim to
be the "champion of the colored races"?' The leaders of the Soviet Union
made similar claims of non-discrimination,^ How could Americans win hearts
and minds and convince the wavering colored peoples in the developing world
that they should be followed, if the U,S, was exposed globally as a hypocrite
Gerald Home is Moores Professor of History and Alriean American Studies at the University of Houston,
TX,

288

Toward a Transnational Research Agenda for African American History

289

that did not practice what it preached? The sensitivity of this nation to global
pressure is reflected in the odyssey of both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Paul
Robeson: the former came under ever sharper criticism after he condemned
the war in Vietnam, while the latter ran afoul of American officials when he
refused to go along with Cold War premises,
Tlie argument here is that this confluence between global politics and the
fate of African Americans was not simply a product of events that unfolded
at a certain point in the 20th century but, instead, have inhered in the nature
of the African experience in North America. Just as the way we view history
changes when gender is invoked, leading to different questions and different
answers, something siniilar occurs when the global is invoked in writing
African American history,^ The rather modest points I make here arguing for
the development of a transnational research agenda should not be seen as
grappling definitively with this crucially important matter. Instead, it should
be seen as a tentative first step that by its nature cries out for collaboration
and collective consideration.
As the writer Juan Enriquez informs us, it is not altogether clear that the
nation now known as the United States of America will survive in its present
form in this century-^a projection that, if true, will have enormous
consequences for the most vulnerable, especially U,S, African Americans,'*
Already, there is a thriving sovereignty movement in Hawaii, which bids fair
to reduce the stars on the fiag from fifty to forty-nine. ^ Scholars would be
remiss if we were to suffer a failure of imagination and neglect to anticipate
weighty developments of gargantuan importance for the community we
purport to know and inform. That is, the development of a transnational
research agenda could help tremendously in ascertaining more precisely the
identity of African Americans and, more importantly perhaps, in answering
the question: where do we go from here?
"THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY IS MY FRIEND"
The question of slavery looms large in consideration of the founding of
this nation with an understandable emphasis on how Africans, enslaved and
otherwise, played a crucial role in bringing into being the nation now known
as the United States of America, This has been an important research
question in the field, not least since it helps to bolster the claim that this
nation owed a profound debt to African Americans and undercuts the once
seriously debated notion that African Americans should be expelled from this
country and repatriated to Africa, Central, or South America,^
However, this narrative has elided another profound pointit is likely
that more African Americans fought with the losing British rather than the
victorious colonists. In a sense, despite the understandable and meritorious
motivation, the historiography of African Americans and the Revolution has
been a keen example of "victors' history," a trend that has blighted our field
generally. However, the time has long since arrived to engage in a fuller

290

The Journal of African American History

examination of the question of how African Americans fit into this nation's
founding, a question whicb has been engaged by a number of historians. Most
recently, Alfred W. and Ruth G. Blumrosen bave argued persuasively that the
1776 "revolution" was sparked in no small part by "Somerset's Case" in
England, whicb suggested that abolition of slavery was on the agenda in the
British Empire and, rather than adhere to this new reality, the colonists
revolted, led by slaveholders George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.'' Tbe
work of Steven Wise complements that of the Blumrosens nicely, whicb
suggests that a trend in the historiography is developing.^
In this sense, the American Revolution should be viewed in the same light
as the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in 1965 in another
former British colonythe nation once known as Rhodesia and now known
as Zimbabwewhere interestingly the rebellious white colonists claimed that
tbey were merely following in the footsteps of the 1776 revolt. Intriguingly,
UDI was a direct response to London's proclamation of "winds of change"
blowing through tbe continent, i.e. decolonization, just as the 1776 revolt bas
been said to be a response to incipient abolitionism.^ Certainly, it is striking
that so many Africans fled the newly minted U.S. after the triumph of the
"revolution"; rarely bave events described as revolutionary witnessed the
flight of so many of the dispossessed with Africans fleeing in all directions,
including the South Pacific where tbey could be seen at the founding of
modem Australia in 1788."' Yet despite the spade work tbat has been done on
tbis topic, more needs to be done, particularly to incorporate the voices of
the Africans themselves and to determine whether they saw the secession
from the British Empire as a "new birth of freedom," or an opportunist coup
de main.
Consideration of the "revolution" raises related research questions that
should be a part of a 21st century agenda: researchers must look at Africans in
North America on their own terms, as opposed to trying to shoehorn them
into a larger U.S. narrative; and in order to do this they must look abroad for
archival sources, which may entail collaboration with scholars overseas.
Scholars will find that a cornucopia of sources await them overseas, starting
witb tbe Public Records Office in Kew Gardens, London, whicb
unfortunatelyhas not been fully utilized in penning histories of colonial
slavery, or narratives of tbe "revolution." Understandably, given that its past
has been more glorious than its present or future, archives in the nation that
gave birth to the U.S. are quite ample, particularly for the earlier periods (the
same holds true for its counterparts in Madrid and Lisbon, whicb are also
valuable for researching the African Slave Trade). Tbis search for sources
should also lead to Ottawa, whose archivesbefitting a major nationare in
relatively good shape. ' Raising the question of Canada automatically raises a
related and unavoidable question: this northern neighbor did not revolt against
tbe Empire, yet by most contemporary measures, it is a more humane place
to live than the nation whose "revolution," we are told, was so profoundly
progressive (an opinion that no doubt would come as a shock to tbose

Toward a Transnational Research Agenda for African American History

291

Africans who fled to Nova Scotia in the 18th century in the wake of the
colonists' triumph),'^ A pressing project for scholars of African American
Studies is to re-visit the question of the "Black Loyalists," to listen to what
they were sayinga mission that should take us to London, Ottawa, Canada,
and Freetown, Sierra Leone,
Part of scrutinizing Africans on their own terms entails shedding the
automatic notion that somehow they were always striving for U S ,
nationality, as opposed to departing the U,S, and challenging its practices.
Thus, scholars should take seriously the court testimony given in the great
and earthshaking Gabriel slave conspiracy in 1800 that indicated that the
insurgents planned to spare the lives of Frenchmen, then being vilified by
numerous Euro-Americans, just as we should not ignore the salient point that
for decades during the 19th century there was an objective alliance between
enslaved Africans who opposed the illicit African Slave Trade, and the British
government, which sought to bar this odious commerce after it finally
abolished slavery within its own empire,'^ Virtually every U,S, President from
Thomas Jefferson to James Buchanan, and particularly John Tyler and
James K, Polk, held that British abolitionists were U,S, slaveowners' "natural
enemy," Also "natural" was the supposition that American abolitionists were
in effect "agents of a British conspiracy," just as segregationists saw advocates
of civil rights in the 20th century as agents of Moscow, Similarly, Denmark
Vesey "had supposedly sent a letter" to the Haitian leadership and "had told
his insurgent followers that after killing Charleston's whites and setting the
city ablaze, they would either be rescued by Haitian ships or could sail to the
island safely, (Some testimony also referred to aid from Africa,)" U,S,
slavery, David Brion Davis instructs us, "can no longer be understood in
parochial terms or simply as a chapter in the history of the U.S, South,"'*
How true.
Yet this dictum should be updated to recognize that the enemies of
Washington or Euro-American elites generally (it took decades, for example,
for the U,S, to recognize Haiti) should not be reflexively seen as enemies of
African Americans, This was no less true in the 20th century and will, no
doubt, still be true in the present century. Scholars should take seriously the
age-old dictum of diplomatic statecraft that "the enemy of my enemy is my
friend" and recognize that there was a basis for an alliance between those held
in bondage in the U,S, and the nation's real and imagined foes abroad,
A transnational research agenda should include revolutionary Haiti, When
in 1893 the elderly Frederick Douglass, speaking at Chicago's World Fair,
chose to allocate credit for the kind of freedom that he and other former
slaves enjoyed, he was unequivocal in thanking those who resided beyond the
borders of the U,S,, principally in Haiti,'^ Though there has been admirable
work on this matter, there is much more to be done, principally in foreign
archives,'^ For example, while conducting research on the role of U S ,
nationals in the illicit slave trade to Brazil, I discovered that some of the
most interesting sources (albeit not on my topic but on the impact of Haiti

292

The Journal of African American History

within the hemisphere and, by inference, within the U.S.) were to be found in
the Spanish archives at the Foreign Ministry.'"' Similarly, in Mexico City and
Lisbon, many of the records relevant to African Americans are located at the
Foreign Ministry or its equivalent.'^ Indeed, an intriguing book awaits a
researcher who scours the archives of this hemisphere, especially those of
Caracas, Venezuela and Bogota, Colombia, in order to tell the story of the
widespread and transformative impact of the Haitian Revolution and its
effects on the fate of slavery and the illicit slave trade, in the U.S. and other
parts ofthe Americas.
Admirable work has been done on the African origins of African
Americans in the United States.'^ However, much niore can and should be
done that utilizes the formidable archives in Cape Town, South Africa and
Luanda, Angola, the latter nation being the homeland of many of the
enslaved who were transported to this hemisphere, including the actor and
comedian, Chris Tucker, who only recently discovered that his roots extend
to Southwest Africa.20 Zanzibar, just off the coast of East Africa, was once a
major entrepot for the African Slave Trade and, after the British Navy began
patrolling West Africa, assumed even more importance during the 19th
century as a site for dispatching kidnapped Africans to the Western
Hemisphere. A research project that targeted the archive there, along with
that of neighboring Maputo, Mozambique, would be more than appreciated.
Mention should also be made of real and imagined enemies at home.
Native Americans in the first place. More research needs to be conducted on
the relations between the indigenous peoples of North America and enslaved
Africans and African Americans.2' Fortunately, there are adequate sources,
including the archives of the University of Oklahoma and the National
Archives and Records Administration at Fort Worth, which probably has the
largest cache of documents extant for the study of the history of Native
Americans: their sources are particularly strong for the Cherokee (who
published their own newspapers), the Chickasaw, the Choctaw, the Creek, and
the Seminole.22 This site is particularly good for "one-stop shopping" in that
they also have on microfilm the rich records of the Oklahoma Historical
Society. Again, 21st century scholars would be well-advised to avoid a
teleological approach to this subject, assuming implicitly that the coming of
the U.S. was either inevitable OT welcome by the subjects of their research.
Nor should the episodes of conflict between the two major victims of the
nation-building enterprise in North Americathe Africans and indigenesbe
avoided, or examples of their collaboration against white supremacy be
downplayed.
The fact is that though conquered. Native Americans still exercise a form
of sovereignty that neither scholars nor activists should ignore. For example,
after the South Dakota legislature voted to outlaw abortion, the Native
Americans of Pine Ridge suggested opening a reproductive health clinic on
their territory "where the state of" South Dakota has absolutely no
jurisdiction."23 Historically Native Americans, like their African counterparts

Toward a Transnational Research Agenda for African American History

293

on these shores, have sought to pursue an independent diplomatic and global


strategy in order to defeat or contain the victorious colonists in North
America,^'' A question that needs to be explored further is how the enslaved
African fit into the indigenes' diplomatic strategy, beyond the well-explored
initiatives of the vaunted Seminole nation,^^
Of course, the revision of the story of enslaved Africans on these shores,
will not be greeted with equanimity, as the most popular practitioner in our
field, Lerone Bennett, discovered when he published his insightful Forced into
Glory: Abraham Lincoln's White Dream, which examines the seriously
contemplated plans to remove African Americans en masse from the United
States.^^ Historians looking back on this episode may very well conclude that
Bennett's "mistake" was simply being premature in his perspicacity in not
adhering to the teleological model that sees enslaved Africans marching in an
uncomphcated path to freedom in the U,S,, assisted mightily of course by
sympathetic Euro-Americans,^^
The conclusion of the U,S, Civil War, brilliantly lampooned recently by
Kevin Willmott in his faux documentary film Confederate States of America,
a savage spoof of the teleological model, marks the rise of U,S, imperialism,
and the deepening of this nation's global engagements,^^ Perforce, this also
meant a deepening engagement with the intemationai community by the
formerly enslaved. Then (as now) joining the U,S. military was not widely
viewed as the ideal career choice, so that the formerly enslaved were wellrepresented within the ranks of this Praetorian Guard and did more than their
share in subduing restive Native American nations, battling from time to time
with Mexicans along the border, and wresting from a tottering Spain key parts
of her colonial empire.^^
This reach beyond the borders was a double-edged sword. Relying upon the
primary victims of white supremacy to wage war on behalf of the U,S, handed
a potent weapon to various U,S, antagonists who appealed to the disaffected
on these shores. Fortunately, as noted, historians have thoroughly explored
how this tension between national security and white supremacy was resolved
in favor of the former during the course of the Cold War, Indeed, it is no
exaggeration to suggest that other than the struggles of the formerly enslaved
themselves, it has been this kind of global pressure that has been the single
most important factor in explaining the difficult transition from Jim Crow to
the racialized inequality that presently exists. However, research in the field,
which has been marvelous in detailing the struggles of the formerly enslaved,
has not been as adept in limning the nature of global pressures and influences,
except for World War II and the Cold War era. But the stunningly crucial
importance of these two global developments should alert us to the reality
that the international community impinging upon the predilections of
domestic white supremacists is not solely a recent phenomenon.

294

The Journal of African American History

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE PACIFIC REGION


Scholars have been insightful in informing us about the thrust of U S ,
imperialism toward the Pacific and the planet's most populous continent:
Asia,^^ African American soldiers were present during these often distressing
episodes, but we do not know as much as we should about these events, though
it is easy to surmise that knowledge of these developments would be
informative since the Pacific had long been a haven for enslaved Africans
fleeing the Western Hemisphere, One estimate suggests that there were
"about two thousand" West Indians residing in Australia alone in 1860,^'
Perhaps not surprisingly, a turning point in the history of that continent
occurred in the 1850s, after the notorious rebellion against British rule in
Victoria, "The first case [tried in court] was that of an American Negro
named Joseph, , , ,"^2
A man hailed in the U,S, as a "Black History hero," the talented inventor
Granville T, Woods was actually bom in Australia, as were his parents. Woods
was probably a "quarter black": his "mother's father was a Malay Indian and
his other grandparents were by birth full-blooded savage [sic], , , Australian
aborigines, bom in the wilds back of Melbourne, , , ,"^3 j ^ was reported by
some ofthe first Euro-Americans to encounter Fijians in this island complex
just east of Sydney in the 1830s that the indigenes "were under the command
of an American Negro,"-'''
In 1820 Sylvia Moseley Bingham, the prominent U,S, settler in Hawaii,
was surprised to find a "black man, Anthony Allen, brought up in
Schenectady, New York, who [she believed lived] the most comfortably of
any on the island, , , ," ^^ By 1833 African Americans were "so numerous in
Honolulu that they had begun to feel the need for community organizations,"
as "possibly half the whalers who docked there" were African Americans who
also formed the core of a "royal band for [King] Kamehameha III in
1834, , , ," King Kalakaua, it was reported, was "unusually dark for a
Polynesian and several of his features suggested a Negro inheritance, "a
presumption that caused the Tokyo press to term him a 'dark almost Black
King,'" He solidified his ties with African Americans by visiting Hampton
Institute in Virginia, which was modeled after a school in Hawaii,^^ Barack
Obama spent his early years in Honolulu where his brown skin made plausible
his grandfather's otherwise implausible assertion that the ftiture US, Senator
was "the great-grandson of King Kamehameha, Hawaii's first monarch,"^^
Reportedly, W, D, Fardinspiration for the organization now known as the
Nation of Islam (NOI)was of Hawaiian parentage,^^ In May 2005 the NOI
detailed the deep "spiritual ties between [the] Ratana Church of New Zealand
with [the] Nation of Islam in America"; Ratana, comprised largely of the
dark-skinned indigenous Maoris, is remarkably similar in many ways to the
NOIand preceded it in formation,^^
This brief exposition should underscore what should now be obvious:
African American history must be understood in a global context that includes

Toward a Transnational Research Agenda for African American HLitory

295

the Pacific region. This is true for many reasons, not least since it was easier
for the enslaved fleeing persecution to blend into this region and their
frequently being monolingual in English was not a major handicap. In
addition, the broad sweep of this region made it less likely that they could be
discovered and subjected to the Fugitive Slave Act, or its predecessors. The
literate dark-skinned settlers from North America, often wise in the ways of
the vampire-like Europeans and Euro-Americans who were arriving in droves
in this region, were welcomed heartily and often attained a degree of mobility
that could only be dreamed about in the Westem Hemisphere,
Despite the trailblazing research that has been done in this realm, there is
so much more that needs to be uncovered. For example, after the US, Civil
War, a new form of bonded labor erupted in the region, involving the
kidnapping in the tens of thousands of Melanesians and Polynesians, who
were then compelled to labor on plantations in Queensland, Australia, and
Fiji,''" A frequent contributor to this joumal and a legendary heroine in the
field of history, Howard University's Merze Tate, pioneered in bringing this
sordid tale to a larger audience,'" But in a sense, scholars in African American
Studies, and African Americans themselves, have been sadly neglectful of this
important subject, since white Southerners who formerly hounded us simply
migrated to the Pacific to continue their dirty business after being defeated
during the U,S, Civil War, A number of former Confederates were
instrumental in this new slave trade, known as "blackbirding," A thriving ku
klux klan chapter was formed in Fiji at the same time that Reconstruction in
the US, South was being strangled,''^ Speaking intellectually and politically,
scholars in our field should be more aware of the broad sweep of those
antagonists who threaten the very existence of African Americans, precisely
because we could gain momentum and resources abroad that could then be
deployed on these shores,
'
This is particularly the case in that the sources are so incredibly rich. The
archives in Suva, Fiji, are quite well-organized, as are those of Australia,
Particular mention should be made of the State Library of New South Wales
in Sydney, Also hote that the federation of Australia did not occur until 1901,
so the regional archives in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and
Tasmania, not to mention the libraries in the major cities such as Melboume,
Brisbane, and Perth, should be consulted in addition to the central archives in
Canberra, Similarly, the archives in Wellington, New Zealand, are more than
adequate. Closer to home, perhaps the best organized state archive in the US,
is in Honolulu, thanks to the sadly departed Hawaii Kingdom, which was
dislodged by U,S, officials in no small part because of its friendliness toward
the fellow dark-skinned. The Kingdom sought to halt "blackbirding," one of
the reasons it was toppled in the 1890san event that is still bewailed in
Honolulu and may very well lead to sovereignty for Hawaii in the 21st
century.
These archives in the Pacific region can also shed light on the sizable
20th century presence of African Americans in this region, mostly as a result

296

The Journal of African American History

of their presence within the U,S, military. Again, their presence within these
rankswielding weapons and defending the nation against foes, real and
imaginedcontributed significantly to the growing pressure that ultimately
led to a retreat from Jim Crow, This was particularly so during the War in the
Pacific when Tokyo made overt appeals to African Americans on the basis of
the Japanese being the "champion ofthe colored races'"*^ The Diplomatic
Records Office in Tokyo will no doubt reveal a comucopia of material on this
strategically important matter. Here, of course, intemational collaboration
will be critical since one will find documents in this archive in English written
by African Americans pleading for assistance; but in order to ascertain the
Japanese side of this story, Japanese language skills will be necessary.
Similarly, during the Japanese occupation in Asia, there were Enghsh language
newspapers published by the authorities, I have found that the Hong Kong
News, for example, contains intriguing and copious infonnation about African
Americans and racism in the U,S,, and I suspect the same holds tme for the
other newspapers published in the region during the occupation, particularly
in Shanghai, perhaps the premier city of this new century. Fortunately, they
are all on microfilm and, therefore, available through interlibrary loan.
Detailing African American relations with China, which may very well be
the prime superpower of this century, should also be seen as a priority.
Aspects of this relationship have been researched but, unfortunately, these
have not utilized Chinese language sources,'*'' China also wielded significant
influence on some African Americans of the left during the second half of the
20th century, an influence that was not always positive, which a fortiori
mandates a fresh re-examination,
AFRICAN AMERICANS AND THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT
Relations between India and African Americans are also richly deserving
of scrutiny. This has occurred to a degree though, again, there is much more
that needs to be done,''^ This is notably the case since the new relationship
between New Delhi and Washington will no doubt lead to further investment
in India, which contains the largest number of English speakers on the planet.
The World Wide Web allows for an even closer integration of these
economies and, ultimately, may lead to a number of African Americans
decamping to South Asia to work, which, as shall be seen, would only be
replicating past practices.
This relationship is nothing new. As the central colony of the British
Empire, India once exported calico to Great Britain; however, after the
advent ofthe cotton gin in the 1790s, Britain began exporting cotton goods
to India, thus destroying a once-thriving industry and making Lancashire
more dependent on African slave labor in the U,S, South, This was a
"triangular trade" of a new type, with enslaved Africans producing cotton that
was sent to Great Britain, where it was converted into cotton goods that then
went to India, This new triangular trade deepened the bondage of both

Toward a Transnational Research Agenda for African American History

297

enslaved Africans and Indians, providing them with a point of unity that
reached efflorescence in the 20th century when Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr,,
adapted Gandhian nonviolent protest strategies to great effect,''^
But in the period between slavery and the arrival of Dr, King, there were
other points of contact, Amanda Berry Smith of the African Methodist
Episcopal faith was bom to enslaved workers in Maryland in 1837, but by
1881 was spreading the Word of God in British India, specifically in Burma,
She "held a meeting , , , for colored men especially" and a "nice company of
these men gathered; some were from the West Indies, some from the West
Coast of Africa and some from Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, One
man from the West Indies had been in Burma for twenty years, , , ," There
were "about twenty of these men in all, , , ," Unlike many of their
compatriots back home in North America, "it seemed that these men were
better off than" many; "some of them were engineers on railways, some
conductors, some in govemment service, and they all had good positions and
made money. Some of them had nice families of children, , , ,'"'' There
seemed to be a special bond between African Americans and South Asians, or
so thought former U,S, Secretary of State, William Seward, While traveling in
Madras in the wake of his storm-tossed Civil War leadership, he heard a
"Tamil lyric" that was "prettily sung by one class. Its plaintive strain recalled
our Negro melodies," he remarked,''^
These episodes also illuminate larger themes. The records of groups such
as missionaries, performers (particularly the Fisk Jubilee Singers), soldiers,
sailors, and the like will no doubt reveal enlightening material about the
international engagements of African Americans, particularly how global
events have been leveraged for domestic gain. Moreover, more wide-reaching
assemblage of the travel writings of African Americans, particularly these
that might lie abroad, is a must, I suspect that a disproportionate number of
skilled African American workers chose exile over persecution in the U,S,
The exiles in Burma were not unique and this is a topic worthy of systematic
study, particularly since global trends may propel an accelerated African
American Diaspora in the 21st century,
A real bounty of sources awaits scholars interested in exploring tbis
relationship between British India and African Americans, The NAACP
Papers at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, with an abridged
version on microfilm in libraries too numerous to mention, is a good place to
start. But there are also the archives of the Young Men's Christian
Association at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and the archives of
the American Friends Services Committee in Philadelphia at their national
headquarters. Both groups dispatched African American personnel to India
during the first half of the 20th century. Then there are the papers of the
leading theologian, Howard Thurman, at Boston University and the William
S, Nelson papers at Howard University, As with virtually any project
involving African Americans, the National Archives and Records
Administration at College Park, Maryland, is a necessary stop. As with

298

The Journal of African American History

virtually any project involving the British Empire, the Huntington Library in
San Marino, California (just outside of Pasadena with its lush botanical garden
and delicious subsidized lunches), must also be visited. In New Delhi, the Nehru
Library is more than adequate, having a microfilm version of the voluminous
records of what is now the Congress party, which spearheaded the
decolonization struggle. These records reveal significant contacts between
Indians and African American activists. The Nehru Library also contains a
wide range of books that will repay the attention of a diligent scholar.
Unfortunately, the central archives in New Delhi are something of a mess and
utterly unbefitting such a great nation.
Raising the issue of India, once the "crown jewel" of an empire that
included the North American colonies that became the United States, suggests
another point: historically, where British colonies have existed, African
Americans have not been far behind. A common language is one reason,
common issues are another. Thus, although the central archives of Hong
Kong are more than adequate and are complemented by a commodious library
and archives at the University of Hong Kong, the archives in Singapore are
rather underdeveloped, which is surprising given the rather advanced nature of
this society. There are, however, some useful oral histories in the central
archive in Singapore and helpful microfilm collections based on original
documents from neighboring Malaysia, a special case that eagerly awaits the
enterprising scholar. For there, the long-time leader Mahathir Mohamad has
critiqued white supremacy in a manner similar to the discourses that have
arisen among African Americans, while aggressively pushing Affirmative
Action policies that provide a model for what could be implemented on this
side of the Pacific.''^ Comparative history should be deployed much more
than it has been in African American Studies and Malaysia looms enticingly as
a prime point of comparison.
AFRICAN AMERICANS AND THE CARIBBEAN, EUROPE,
AND AFRICA
Many enslaved Africans in North America began life as "property" in the
British Empire and, as such, could be transported to Indiawhich some
wereor to the West Indies. The relationship between Barbados, the
easternmost Caribbean island, and South Carolina stretches back to the 17th
century. Of the former British West Indies, it is probably Barbados that has
the most efficient and best organized archives. Noteworthy are the papers of
Grantley Adams, a founding father of independent Barbados, who, like many
NAACP leaders (some of whom he knew and worked with), played a pivotal
role in Cold War politics.
The same holds true for Norman Manley, a founding father of
independent Jamaica, whose papers are at the archives in Spanishtown,
Jamaica. Like the Barbados archives, those of Jamaica, including the papers of
Manley, have significant materials on the Universal Negro Improvement

Toward a Transnational Research Agenda for African American History

299

Association (UNIA), led by Marcus Garvey, whose transnational reach awaits


a more systematic narrative. Due to its ample oil and gas wealth, Trinidad &
Tobago is, in many ways, the most developed part of the former British West
Indies; its archives are adequate but, surprisingly, not as well-organized as
those of Barbados. On the other hand, Trinidad's national library may be the
best in the region; take particular note of its well-organized vertical and
clipping files. Guyana has suffered mightily for having the gumption to bring
to office in 1953 the brilliant Marxist intellectual Cheddi Jagan, trained at
Howard and Northwestern universities. He was driven from office after a few
months as a result of a British invasion. Sadly, the archives in Georgetown,
like the rest of the nation, have suffered and the same can be said of the
national library.
Of course, as the example of Japan suggests, it would be a mistake to limit
our research agenda to the English-speaking world, as recent studies have
shown.^'^ Russia has received a comprehensive treatment in this regard.^'
However, with the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the accession of
the voluminous (and surprisingly, yet to be exhaustively mined) papers of the
Communist Party-USA (CPUSA), now located at the Library of Congress
with microfilm versions at Stanford University and elsewhere, it is possible to
gain insight into the global activities, of such luminaries as Paul Robeson,
Claudia Jones, Langston Hughes, Ferdinand Smith, and many others.
Canvassing the archives of formerly socialist Eastern Europe, particularly
East Germany, the horrie for decades of well-known cartoonist and fonner
NAACP official Ollie Harrington, for records on Afiican Americans would be
an immensely important project.^^ Of course, the CPUSA was not the only
left-wing party with broad support in African America: pride of place in this
regard belongs to the Black Panther Party (BPP), which had offices and/or
members in Algeria and Tanzania. For example, we have yet to explore
thoroughly the influence of the radical intellectual from revolutionary
Zanzibar, Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu, on African American activists in the
1960s; nor have the sources in Algiers, Stockholfn, Beijing, Havana, or the
other sites of the BPP Diaspora been explored for what they may tell us
about African America.^?
As noted, archives in Cape Town, South Africa, and Luanda, Angola, are
necessary stops for students of the African Slave Trade. To come full circle,
these two nations also niust be visited in order to understand better the 20th
century relationship between Africa and African Americans. The same holds
true for the archives of Zimbabwe, which may be the best organized on the
continent. South Afi'ica, of course, is relatively developed; therefore, like the
U.S. there are numerous sites for research, including the archives in Pretoria
and collections at the University of Cape Town, the University of Westem
Cape, the University of the Witswatersrand, and others. To be sure, this
subject has received considerable attention, though, per usual, there is much
more that could be done.^'* For example, in order to get a better idea ofhow
African Americans interacted with Africa in recent decades, particularly in

300

The Journal of African American History

the context of the latter's struggles for national liberation, there needs to be a
systematic scouring of the African American press, particularly, the Los
Angeles Sentinel, the New York Amsterdam News (of course, there are other
Gotham papers that should be consulted, including the Daily Challenge, New
York City Sun, and Big Red), Muhammad Speaks, Philadelphia Tribune, St.
Louis Argus, St. Louis American, and many more. Indeed, one of the many
research centers in African American Studies such as those at Cornell, UCLA,
UC-Santa Barbara, and Northwestem needs to seek funding, immediately if
not sooner, for the purpose of digitizing and placing on-line, with a search
engine, the full run of these and other major black newspapers. This would
make for a great leap forward in the field of African American history on the
domestic and transnational fronts.
Yet even if that ambitious project is not on the immediate horizon, there
remains much to be done in this sphere. For example, the papers of Mervyn
Dymally, who is of Tdnidadian origin and was also one of California's longest
serving politicos and a former member of the Congressional Black Caucus, are
located at California State University, Los Angeles. Dymally was quite active
in both African and Caribbean affairs and there is much in this collection on
these topics. For years Charles Diggs of Detroit was a leader in the U.S.
Congress on the question of Africa's decolonization and his voluminous
papers are at Howard University. In addition, there is a collection of Kwame
Nkrumah's papers there that are quite informative. Also at Howard are the
papers of the National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL), a group that
since 1968 has been in the forefront of struggles dealing with Africa and the
Caribbean. The NCBL was particularly close to the ill-fated revolutionary
govemment of Grenada that was overthrown in the wake of intemal conflict
and a U.S. invasion in 1983. This is a chapter in history that merits detailed
examination,
With regard to Howard University, as this essay suggests and as is
appropriate for this eminent institution, it is the site for a number of
critically important collections. Unfortunately, some of these have not been
processed and, therefore, are not altogether accessible to scholars. This
suggests that a delegation of scholars should seek to engage with the
administration of Howard to assist in expanding its important mission in the
realm of archival preservation.
To reiterate, a transnational research agenda for African American
history in this new century is obligatory since global pressures, along with the
stmggles of African Americans themselves, have been decisive in bringing the
kind of freedom now enjoyed by the descendants of those who were enslaved.
Moreover, African American history includes not only those who have
remained in North America, but should also encompass the experiences of
those legions who chose to flee these shores; their voices should also be heard.
Ironically, the laudable recent emphasis on the African Diaspora may have
served to obscure a no less critical dispersion: the African American Diaspora.
In addition, there is no guarantee that the 21 st century will be an "American

Toward a Transnational Research Agenda for African American History

301

Century" in the way that the previous one was; and this nation's growing
dependence on foreign financing, along with the evolution of the internet and
supersonic transport, ensures that global interdependence will proliferate in a
way that can be of benefit to researchers and African Americans alike,
NOTES
'March Galiicchio, The African American Encounter with Japan and China: Black Internationali.im in Asia.
1895-1945 (Chapel Hill, NC, 2000); Gerald Home, Race Warl White Supremacy and the Japanese Attack on
the Briti.ih Empire (New York, 2004),
^Brenda Gayle Plummer, Ri.sing Wind: Black Americans and U.S. Foreign Affairs. 1935-1960 (Chapel Hill,
NC, 1996); Penny M, Von Escheh, Race Against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism. 1937-1957
(Ithaca, NY, 1997); Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy
(Princeton, NJ, 2001; Azza Salam Layton, International Politics and Civil Rights Policies in the United States.
1941-1960 (New York, 2000),
'joan Scott, Gender and the Politics of History (New York, 1988),
'*Juan Enriquez, The Untied States of America: Polarization. Fracturing, and Our Future (New York, 2005),
^Haunani-Kay Trask, From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaii (Honolulu, HI, 1999);
Noenoe K, Silva, Aloha Betrayed: Native Hawaiian Resistance to American Colonialism (Durham, NC, 2004),
^'Benjamin Quarles, The Negro in the American Revolution (Chapel Hill, NC, 1996); See also Gary Nash The
Forgotten Fifth: African-Americans in the Age of Revolution (Cambridge, MA, 2005),
^Alfred W, Blumrosen and Ruth G, Blumrosen, Slave Nation: How Slavery United the Colonies and Sparked
the American Revolution (Naperville, IL, 2005).
^Steven Wise, Though the Heavens May Fall: The Landmark Trial That Led to the End of Human Slavery
(New York, 2005),
^See e,g. Gerald Home, From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War Against Zimbabwe, 19651980 (Chapel Hill, NC, 2001),
"'See Cassandra Pybus, Epic Journeys of Freedom: Runaway Slaves of the American Revolution and Their
Global Quest for Liberty (Boston^ MA, 2006); Simon Schama, Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the
American Revolution (London, 2006),
' 'Alvin Gluek, Minnesota and the Manifest Destiny of Canada: A Study in Canadian-American Relations
(Toronto, Canada, 1965).
'^ James W. Walker, The Black Loyalists: The Search for a Promise Land in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone,
1 783-1870 (Toronto, Canada, 1992); Harvey Amani Whitfield, From American Slaves to Nova Scotian
Subjects: The Case ofthe Black Refugees, 1813-1840 (Toronto, Canada, 1965); Mary Louise Clitlord, From
Slavery to Freetown: Black Loyalists After the American Revolution (McFarland, 1999);
'^See e.g. David Brion Davis, Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World (New York,
2006), 170; Julius S. Scott III, "The Common Wind: Currents of Afro-American Communication in the Era of
the Haitian Revolution," Ph.D. dissertation. Duke University, 1986; Douglas R. Egerton, Gabriel's Rebellion:
The Virginia Slave Conspiracies of 1800 and 1802 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1993), 45-48.
''*Davis, Inhuman Bondage, 272, 282, 223.
'^Waldo Martin, The Mind of Frederick Douglass (Chapel Hill, NC, 1984), 50-52, 269, 271; Chicago Tribune.
3 January 1893.
'^See e.g. Alfred N, Hunt, Haiti's Influence on Antebellum America: Slumbering Volcano in the Caribbean
(Baton Rouge, LA, 1988); Alfred N. Hunt, "The Influence of Haiti on the Antebellum South, 1791-1865,"
Ph.D. dissertation. University of Texas-Austin, 1975.
'^Gerald Home, The Deepest South: The U.S. and Brazil and the African Slave Trade (New York, 2007).
References to these foreign sources can be found in the footnotes here,
'^Gerald Home, Black and Brown: African-Americans and the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1920 (New York,
2005),

The Journal of African American History


Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Slavery and African Ethnicities in the America.!: Restoring the Lints (Chapel Hill,
NC, 2005); Michael Gomez, Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the
Colonial and Antebellum South (Chapel Hill, NC, 1998).
^^Boston Globe, 29 January 2006.
William Loren Katz and Paula A. Franklin, Proudly Red and Black: Stories of African and Native
American.:- (New York, 1993); Katja Helma May, "Collision and Collusion: Native Americans and African
Americans in the Cherokee and Creek Nations, 1830s to 1920s," Ph.D. dissertation. University of California,
Berkeley, 1994; Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr., Africans and Creeks: From the Colonial Period to the Civil War
(Westport, CT, 1979); Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr., Africans and Seminoles: From Removal to Emancipation
(Westport, CT, 1977).
See e.g. Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr., and James W. Parins, eds., American Indian and Alaska Native
New.spapers and Periodicals (Westport, CT, 1984-1986).
^^Kansas City Star, 24 March 2006; Hartford Courant, 25 March 2006.
Colin G. Collaway, New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans and the Remaking of Early America (Baltimore,
MD, 1997); Gregory Fvans Dowd, War Under Heaven: Pontiac. the Indian Nations and the British Empire
(Baltimore, MD, 2002); Christian F. Feest, ed., Indians and Europe: An Inter-disciplinary Collection ofE.s.'savs
(Lincoln, NB, 1989).

f
JJ
J25
John Missall and Mary Lou Missall. The Seminole Wars: America's Longest Indian Conflict (Gainesville,
FL, 2004); Bruce Edward Twyman, The Black Seminole Legacy and North American Politics. 169S-184S
(Washington, DC, 1999); Rosalyn Howard, Black Seminoles in the Bahamas (Gainesville, FL, 2002).
Lerone Bennett, Forced into Glory: Abrahain Lincoln's White Dream (Chicago, IL, 2000).
For reviews of this work, see New York Times Book Review, 27 August 2000- Los Angeles Times Book
Review, 9 April 2000.
Detroit News, 24 March 2006; Seattle Times, 24 March 2006; Seattle Weekly, 22 March 2006.
William H. Leckie with Shirley Leckie, The Buffalo Soldiers: A Narrative of the Black Cavalry in the West
(Norman, OK, 2003); Monroe Lee BilVmglon, New Mexico's Buffalo Soldiers, 1866-1900 (Niwot, CO, 1991).
Brian McAllister Linn, Guardians of Empire: The U.S. Army and the Pacific. 1902-1940 (Chapel Hill, NC,
1997); David F. Long, Gold Braid and Foreign Relations: Diplomatic Activities of U.S. Naval Officers, 17981883 (Annapolis, MD, 1988); C. Hartley Grattan, The United States and the Southwest Pacific (Melbourne,
Australia, 1961); Thomas Schoonover, Uncle Sam's War of 1898 and the Origins of Globalization (Lexington,'
KY, 2003); Eric T. L. Love, Race Over Empire: Racism and U.S. Imperialism (Chapel Hill, NC, 2004),'
Gregory H. Nobles, American Frontiers: Cultural Encounters and Continental Conquest (New York, 1997);
Norman Graebner, Empire on the Pacific: A Study in American Continental Expansion (New York, 1955).
See e.g. Barry Higham, "Jamaicans in the Australian Gold Rush," Jamaica Journal 10 (Number 2,
December 1976): 38-43; Robert Hill, e&., Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association
Papers. Volume IV, September 1, 1921-September 2, 7922 (Berkeley, CA, 1985), 573.
Henry Gyles Turner, Our Own Little Rebellion: The Story of the Eureka Stockade, no date. 103, Box 1,
Walter Hitchcock Papers, National Library of Australia in Canberra.
Rayvon Fouche, Black Inventors in the Age of Segregation: Granville T. Woods, Lewis Latimer and Shelby
J. Davidson (Baltimore, MD, 2003), 28, 214; Note that theiauthor adds to the mystery of Woods's origins by
observing, "I contend that Woods was not an American Negro. . . . "
Stanley Brown, Men from Under the Sky: The Arrival of Westerners in Fiji (Rutland, VT, 1973), 185.
Journal of Sylvia Moseley Bingham, 20 June. 1820, Box 2, Bingham Family Papers Yale University New
Haven, CT.
^ f y,
Kathryn Waddell Takara, "The Atrican Diaspora in Nineteenth Century Hawaii," in Miles Jackson, ed..
They Followed the Trade Winds: African-Americans in Hawaii {}:iono\\i\\\,m,20QA), 1-23, 10, 11, 16. 17. For
an examination of the work of Betsy Stockton, a black missionary to Hawaii in the antebellum era, see Karen
A. Johnson, "Undaunted Courage and Faith: The Lives of Three Black Women in the West and Hawaii in the
Early 19th Century," The Journal of African American History 9\ (Winter 2006): 4-22.
Barack Obama, Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (New York, 2005), 25.
to FBI Director from Chicago Bureau, 3 October 1957, File of W. D. Fard, FBI Reading Room
Washington, DC.
^'^The Final Call, 24 May 2005.

Toward a Transnational Research Agenda for African American History

303

''''See e.g. Grant McCall and John Connell, A World Perspective on Pacific Islander Migration: Australia.
New Zealand and the USA. (Kensington, New South Wales, 1993), 2.3; Thomas Dunbabin, Slavers of the
South Seas (Sydney, Australia, 1935); T. Damon I. Salesa, "Travel Happy Samoa: Colonialism, Samoa
Migration and a 'Brown Pacific'," New Zealand Journal of History 37 (Number 2, October 2003): 171-188,
186; Michael Berry, Refined White: The Story of How South Sea Islanders Came to Cut Sugar Cane in
Queensland and Made History Refining the White Australia Policy (innisfai], Queensland, Australia, 2001).
'"Merze Tate and Fidele Foy, "Slavery and Racism in South Pacific Annexations," The Journal of Negro
History 50 (Number 1, January, 1965); 1-21; Merze Tate, The United States and the Hawaiian Kingdom: A
Political History Qievi Haven, CT, 1965).
''^Caroline Ralston, "The Pattern of Race Relations in 19th Century Pacific Port Towns," Journal of Pacific
History 6 (1971): 39-60, 45; John Young, Adventurous Spirits: Australian Migrant Society in Pre-Cession Fiji
(St Lucia, Queensland, Australia, 1984), 319.
'*^Horne, Race War I; for Suzuko Morikowa's review of Nihonjin to Afurikakaei Amerikajin [Japanese and
African American Relation.s], see below, pp. 339-41.
''''See e.g. Timothy Tyson, Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power (Chapel Hill,
NC, 1994); Gerald Home, Race Woman: The Lives of Shirley Graham Du Bois (New York, 2000).
'^'Sudarshan Kapur, Raising up a Prophet: The African-American Encounter with Gandhi (Boston, 1992).
"^^See e.g. D. A. Famie, The English Cotton Industry and the World Market, 1815-1896 (Oxford, England,
1979), 100; Alfred P. Wads worth and Julia De Lacy Mann, The Cotton Trade and Industrial Lancashire,
1600-1780 (Manchester, England, 1931), 16; see also The Importance of the British Dominion in India
Compared with That in America (London: J. Almon, 1770), Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
''^Farah J. Griffin and Cheryl J. Fish, ^ Stranger in the Village: Two Centuries of African-Atnerican Travel
Writing (Boston, 1998), 56, 77, 8ft, 86.
'*^Olive Risley Seward, ed., William H. Seward's Travels Round the World (New York, 1873), 329.
''^Mahathir Mohamad and Shintaro Ishihara, The Voice of Asia: Two Asian Leaders Discuss the Coming
Century (Tokyo, 1996).
^^Heike Raphael-Hernandez, ed.. Blackening Europe: The African-American Presence (New York, 2004);
May Opitz, et al., eds.. Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out (Amherst, MA, 1992); Michel
Fabre, From Harlem to Paris: Black American Writers in France, /S-/O-yPSO (Champaign-Urbana, IL, 1991).
^ ' Allison Blakely, Russia and the Negro: Blacks in Russian History and Thought (Washington, DC, 1986).
^^Oliver W. Harrington, Why I Left America and Other Essays (Jackson, MS, 1993).
^'Besides Babu's writings, a useful place to begin is Don Petterson, Revolution in Zanzibar: An American's
Cold War Tale (Boulder, CO, 2002).
^'^Francis Njubi Nesbitt, Race for Sanctions: African-Americans Against Apartheid, 1946-1994 (Bloomington,
IN, 2004).