José Martí, the United States, and Race

By Anne Fountain | Go to book overview

5
Chronicles of the Crusaders

As a child in Cuba, Martí had witnessed the savagery of a flogging and had seen a slave’s body swinging from a tree. Years later he vividly described the impact of these scenes in poem XXX of Versos sencillos. In Martí’s verses the life of a slave is a tempest. Lightning streaks the sky like a bloody lash, just as the whip draws blood on a slave’s back. Numbed bodies unloaded from the holds of ships march along in chains to the fetid and crowded slave quarters. And the end of the journey is an untimely death—a man hung from a ceibo tree. The child recoils from the scene and swears to avenge the crime. This is the essential bond between Martí and U.S. abolitionists and is the passionate quest for justice that Martí appreciated when he referred in an 1885 essay to “the most noble crusade mankind has ever witnessed” (13: 90). His allusion was to the abolition campaign launched in the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century by leaders such as William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown, Wendell Phillips, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, opponents of slavery in whom Martí discovered the willingness to sacrifice for a cause, like his own willingness to sacrifice for Cuba. He noted that many of them were drawn to their mission by having witnessed scenes of suffering such as he had experienced as a boy in the Cuban countryside, and he saw in their crusade a redeeming aspect of U.S. life.

Accounts of U.S. slavery and descriptions of the crusading spirit of the American abolitionists fill many pages of Martí’s chronicles. He offered praise for poets who put antislavery sentiments in their verses, placed famous abolitionist orators on pedestals of justice, and hailed Uncle Tom’s Cabin as the “voice of tears.” His essays sent to newspapers in Mexico and South America between 1881 and 1892 brought the topic of U.S.

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José Martí, the United States, and Race
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Content vii
  • Figures ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Cuba’s Most Universal Man 1
  • 2 - Martí and Race, an Overview 12
  • 3 - Black Cubans in the United States 34
  • 4 - African Americans and the Post–Civil War United States 48
  • 5 - Chronicles of the Crusaders 59
  • 6 - Native Americans and "Nuestra AMérica" 77
  • 7 - Immigrant Communities 96
  • 8- Challenging the Colossus - Responses to U.S. Racism 105
  • 9 - Conclusions 119
  • Notes 133
  • Bibliography 145
  • Index 155
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