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Black Political Activism and the Cuban Republic

Melina Pappademos

Publication Year: 2011

While it was not until 1871 that slavery in Cuba was finally abolished, African-descended people had high hopes for legal, social, and economic advancement as the republican period started. Pappademos analyzes the racial politics and culture of black civic and political activists during an era fraught with successive political and economic crises.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Series: Envisioning Cuba


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

I would not have completed this project had I not first relied on the collegiality of Cuban scholars, acquaintances, and friends. As I navigated the complexity and joy of research in Cuba, their willingness to assist and discuss issues from several angles helped me to produce sharper, more historically grounded work. ...

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Introduction: At the Crossroads of Republic

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pp. 1-16

In July 1900, as European armies installed themselves on the African continent, taking lives and pillaging resources in places such as the Congo Free State, French West Africa, and Southern Rhodesia, thirty eminent black leaders, representing the United States, Africa, and the West Indies, met in London. ...

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1 “Political Changüí”: Race, Culture, and Politics in the Early Republic

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pp. 17-62

In January 1901, as constitutional delegates hammered out the new republic’s architecture, even coming to ideological blows over such issues as North American occupation (1898–1902) and the restricted suffrage, the polemical Havana daily La Lucha ran an editorial derisively titled “Changüí Político.”1 ...

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2 Black Patronage Networks

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pp. 63-91

“The issue,” said black political activist Juan Gualberto Gómez in 1902, “is to begin, and begin on the inside.”1 Gómez spoke with satisfaction after Cuba’s new head of state, Tomás Estrada Palma, announced his intention to set aside one hundred public service jobs for “deserving” Cubans of color.2 ...

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3 Inventing Africa and Creating Community

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pp. 92-124

In the months following the republic’s inauguration, Domingo Julia and Leon Escobar, both self- proclaimed Africans, used newly granted constitutional rights to petition the governor of Santa Clara province. At the heart of their request was a plan to repatriate to the African continent with government assistance. ...

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4 Africa in the Privileged Black Imaginary

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pp. 125-147

If Africanist club members struggled to assert complex and dynamic definitions of selfhood and to merge Afro-diasporan sensibilities with Cuban patriotic nationalism, privileged black Cuban leaders, such as Juan Gualberto Gómez, journalist Miguel Gualba, and journalist and politician Rafael Serra, were nearly unanimous in their public disdain of “Africa.” ...

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5 Power and Great Culture

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pp. 148-169

In the first three decades of the twentieth century, black leaders and civic activists advanced the idea that refinement, patriarchy, and bourgeois respectability should be the basis of Cuban leadership, irrespective of a leader’s race. Black civic organizations promoted this ideology and enabled black leaders’ public performance of the cultural practices ...

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6 We Come to Discredit These Leaders: Political Change and Challenges to the Black Political Elite

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pp. 170-222

In May 1936, on the eve of Cuba’s first constitutional elections since Gerardo Machado took office in 1925, the editors of Atómo (The Atom), a new youth- run black newspaper, threw down the gauntlet. They called out the political machine that had dominated Cuban politics since the republic’s inception and that had betrayed blacks: ...

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Conclusion: Republican Politics and the Exigencies of Blackness

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pp. 223-230

Because neither the formal birth of the Cuban republic nor the promulgation of the 1901 democratic constitution were defining moments in the black Cuban battle for resources, a narrative of republican black activism must draw on alternative watersheds. Arguably, a black activist atlas would include, among many other salient actions, ...


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pp. 231-276


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pp. 277-296


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pp. 297-323

E-ISBN-13: 9781469602769
E-ISBN-10: 1469602768
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807834909
Print-ISBN-10: 0807834904

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Envisioning Cuba
Series Editor Byline: Edited by Louis A. Pérez Jr., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 769187882
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Black Political Activism and the Cuban Republic

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Blacks -- Cuba -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Blacks -- Cuba -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Cuba -- Politics and government -- 1909-1933.
  • Cuba -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Cuba -- Race relations -- Political aspects -- History -- 20th century.
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