Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Joel Augustus Rogers' Race Vindication: A Chicago Pullman Porter & the Making of the from Superman to Man (1917)

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Joel Augustus Rogers' Race Vindication: A Chicago Pullman Porter & the Making of the from Superman to Man (1917)

Article excerpt

The same Volneyan historiography of decline was expressed in the title of Joel Augustus Rogers's From Superman to Man (1917). Rogers, who is the most beloved and influential of the vindicationists, wrote numerous books and newspaper articles which appeared in the first half of the twentieth century. (1998)

Wilson J. Moses

The scholar Wilson Moses was right when he postulated that the work of Joel Augustus Rogers (1880-1917) and other black intellectuals during the early twentieth century in America sought to vindicate people of African descent "... to participate in the larger community of world civilization, based on the evidence of their past contributions to it." The vast proliferation of anti-African and African American literature in the history of the United States is profound to say the least. The history of this vast racist literature is rooted in a civilizational phenomenon never seen before in human history in the subjugation of West and Central sub-Saharan Africans across the Atlantic between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries by European slave-traders for the benefit of the rise of plantation and mine slavery in the Americas. This new Western civilizational phenomenon forever linked the old worlds of Africa and Europe to the Americas. Furthermore, the new Western civilizational phenomenon transformed the old worlds of Africa and Europe of ethnicity to race through the invention of certain Europeans and Euro-Americans (philosophers, scientists, scholars, and, slavery-capitalists) need to create a human hierarchy that justified European racial dominance, superior intellect, and black human bondage. Most important, this continual Western civilizational phenomenon permanently seared into the consciousness and imagination of many individuals in the West the fallacy of sub-Saharan Africans and their descendants in the Americas as brutes incapable of functioning as intelligent human-beings outside the normal order of human bondage (Moses, 1998; Robinson 2001).

Rogers' Volneyan historiography of decline conversation in From Superman to Man (1917) is based on his will to convince Americans that people of African descent in Africa and the Western hemisphere made serious contributions to the progress of human history. Rogers' idea to take on such a project during the 1910s came at a time in American history when a new generation of racist scientists, scholars, along with white American xenophobic influenced discrimination in courts, lynching, and major violations of civil rights toward African American citizens. Rogers' From Superman to Man (FSM) is centered around a conversation between a African American Pullman porter named Dixon and a racist white male southern legislator (in later editions senator from Oklahoma) who debate about the inferiority of African Americans and people of sub-Saharan African descent. Essentially in FSM, the crux of Rogers' line of reasoning is that black people in the United States deserve by birthright and through ancestry to be treated and respected as true American citizens. Taking this into consideration this essay seeks to explore Rogers occupation as a Chicago Pullman porter during the 1910s which influenced the writing of FSM; and the making, importance, and social impact his race vindicationist novel initially had on the black intelligentsia and white liberals in Chicago and abroad (Moses, 1998).

Rogers' work as a Pullman porter along with the racist American literature he read during the early twentieth century had a tremendous impact on his intellect and life. Rogers read many racist books during this era but none seem to have moved him more than Thomas F. Dixon Jr.'s The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan (1905). The essay will explore the impact Dixon's novel and other racist literature had on Rogers intellect and how why Rogers' FSM is part of an African American tradition of vindicationsist historical writings. According to Henry Louis Gates Jr. …

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