Between Race and Empire: African-Americans and Cubans before the Cuban Revolution

Between Race and Empire: African-Americans and Cubans before the Cuban Revolution

Between Race and Empire: African-Americans and Cubans before the Cuban Revolution

Between Race and Empire: African-Americans and Cubans before the Cuban Revolution


For many black Americans, the prominence and success of black Cubans in early efforts for independence and abolition highlighted a sense of racial identity and pride, while after U. S. intervention the suppression of Afro-Cuban aspirations created a strong interest among African-Americans concerning Cuban affairs. This collection, edited by a black Cuban and a black American, traces the relations between Cubans and African-Americans from the abolitionist era to the Cuban Revolution of 1959. The eleven essays gathered here, written by scholars from both countries, heighten our appreciation of African-Americans as international actors and challenges the notion that Cubans had little or no race consciousness. This is the first study of the world capitalist system to track the international consciousness of working peoples, peoples of color, and women. With a focus on two sets of peoples not in state power, Between Race and Empire expands our understanding of "history from below," and reflects current trends in Pan-Africanist and African Diaspora studies by tracing a little-studied linkage between two peoples of African descent. Author note: Lisa Brock is Associate Professor of African History and Diaspora Studies, Department of Liberal Arts, School of the Art Institute of Chicago. >P>Digna Casta'eda Fuertes is Senior Professor of Caribbean History and Senior Advisor for graduate diplomas in History, University of Havana, Cuba.


Lisa Brock

Calculating Revelations

When I was young my grandmother played the numbers. She consulted dream books to enumerate her night visions and counting books to calculate their odds. She would work up sequences of numbers and list them in long single columns. With the concentration of a statistician and using a math that was clearly beyond my reach, she would add, subtract, and formulate new combinations of figures. At the moment in which it was right, the number would reveal itself to her and she would quietly say, "That's it; that's the number that is surely going to hit." and it often did.

I wish I had my grandmother's ability to divine what was hidden in the future. I might have foreseen the academic and ideological challenges that preparing an anthology on Cuba and African-Americans would entail. I might have realized that the centering of two peoples not in state power across nation-state boundaries would come to feel like a mountain-moving task, that gathering the contributors to unravel the threads of this connected historical saga would be difficult. Layers of racism and imperialism have marginalized both sets of peoples, not only in their own societies and in the region but also within their academies. in addition, conventional Western scholarship has been bound by the questions and contexts of nation-states. It was difficult, then, to locate Cuban and North American intellectuals willing and able to break away from their traditional national moorings.

Yet, we -- the editors of and contributors to this collection -- knew there existed a rich and diverse history of unrecognized linkages between AfticanAmericans and Cubans. Inklings of them appear in the biographical footnotes of Langston Hughes, in the liner notes of Dizzy Gillespie records, in the political proclamations of Frederick Douglass, and in bold Havana headlines . . .

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