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New World Poetics: Nature and the Adamic Imagination of Whitman, Neruda, and Walcott. By George B. Handley. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2007. 448 pages. $39.95 (cloth).
Blackface Cuba, 1840–1895. By Jill Lane. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005. 288 pages. $59.59 (cloth).
Waves of Decolonization: Discourses of Race and Hemispheric Citizenship in Cuba, Mexico, and the United States. By David Luis-Brown. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008. 352 pages. $89.95 (cloth). $24.95 (paper).
The Borderlands of Culture: Américo Paredes and the Transnational Imaginary. By Ramón Saldívar. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006. 536 pages. $89.95 (cloth). $24.95 (paper).
Degrees of Freedom: Louisiana and Cuba After Slavery. By Rebecca J. Scott. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005. 392 pages. $29.95 (cloth). $18.95 (paper).
Reconstructing the World: Southern Fictions and U.S. Imperalisms, 1898–1976. By Harilaos Stecopoulos. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008. 203 pages. $69.95 (cloth). $22.95 (paper).

In the first decades of the twentieth century, white supremacy was rarely a provincial affair. Although the Virginian Earnest Sevier Cox (1880–1966) could trace his family to William the Conqueror, his intellectual roots were at the University of Chicago, where he studied “the Negro problem” with Frederick Starr, E. A. Ross, and other scholars of race in America. Armed with this formidable lineage, he set out in 1910 to explore the world, aiming to “[find] out how other peoples control their negroes.”1 He spent a year working in the Kimberley diamond mines in South Africa, studying apartheid at [End Page 931] its founding moment, and earning venture capital for visits to his “racial kin” around the world. Modeling himself after Henry Morton Stanley, he traveled the “Cape to Cairo” route, offering a comparative assessment of the European colonies, showing a preference for those administered by Germany. He surveyed the global color line in all its fullness, including the settler societies of Australia and New Zealand, the new American colony in the Philippines, the major port cities of the Far East, and much of South America. At every stop, he presented himself as an expert on the race problem and a student of “Negro” psychology. On the road or on rail, at sea or in port, he wrote countless newspaper articles, granted numerous interviews, and shared remarks over dinner or lunch to anyone who agreed to pay for a meal and was willing to flatter his image as a renowned explorer. Often, he would present his famous slide show: a panorama of the world’s darkest peoples, often naked or in tribal dress. After completing his travels in 1914, he explained that his years of social scientific study and vagabondage had confirmed what he knew already to be true: that “the Negro” needed stricter, potent, even deadly, controls if “he” was to serve as captive labor; that blacks would have to be “returned” to Africa at some point soon or they would “outbreed” whites; and that whites needed to better manage their own racial capital. The fate of the world and of “civilization,” Cox insisted, was at stake.2

Cox was a southern preacher, a businessman, a cyclorama enthusiast, a blue blood and aristocrat. With connections to Chicago and Vanderbilt—and a heavy file of press clippings from his sojourns—he was no minor figure in white supremacist circles. After a chance meeting in Washington, he became an occasional collaborator with James K. Vardaman, the man who turned Mississippi’s Parchman prison plantation into something “worse than slavery,” establishing debt peonage and forced labor for the state as a southern rite.3 Later, he supported the Garvey movement, which he understood as a literal “black to Africa movement,” and advertised White America, his first book, in Garvey’s publications. When Garvey was imprisoned, Cox successfully petitioned the president to have him released. But he wasn’t an especially significant man. Nor were his global connections extraordinary, then or now. Cox wasn’t a diplomat or a statesman. He never held an elected office. He wasn’t an academic or entrepreneur. He was...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6490
Print ISSN
0003-0678
Pages
pp. 931-941
Launched on MUSE
2009-12-09
Open Access
No
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