Extending Toni Morrison's argument that close scrutiny of how American Africanism works in the literary imagination is central to understanding American literature, I compare different but mutually informative racial formations in two novels of the 1920s, one by a white and the other by a black writer. I argue that their overlapping deployments of the onomastic tropes of “Jake” and “Congo” reveal what race means to Dos Passos and McKay as both narrative strategy and cultural experience.


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