Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xvi

It feels impossible to begin to thank the countless friends, colleagues, students, teachers, relatives, librarians, strangers, and others who have contributed to the making of this book. I am honored to share the kindness of their teaching, mentoring, feeding, reading, invitations, questions, answers, camaraderie, and solidarity, and I hope that this book represents that spirit. Acknowledgments such as these are necessarily insufficient and incomplete....

Abbreviations Used in the Text

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pp. xvii-xx

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Introduction. James Weldon Johnson’s Transnational Vaudeville

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pp. 1-16

Expressions of love for the Congo take a range of forms within African American culture. In the first years of the twentieth century, James Weldon Johnson wrote the lyrics to the hugely popular “Congo Love Song,” which invokes the fictitious “wilds of Umbagooda” in a manner that may seem commonplace among the era’s representations of Africa. On first glance, Johnson’s song might appear to reproduce the kinds of stock representations that are the subject of Malcolm X’s brilliant commentary on the role played by primitivist...

Part I. The Nineteenth-Century Routes of Black Transnationalism

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pp. 17-18

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Chapter 1. George Washington Williams’s Stern Duty of History

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pp. 19-48

On December  12, 1889, the eminent African American historian George Washington Williams eagerly visited the campus of Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute.1 He had returned less than two weeks earlier from an antislavery conference in Brussels, where he also had a personal meeting with King Leopold II of Belgium, the sovereign ruler of l’État Indépendant du Congo. Williams parlayed his royal audience, which he had actively sought since 1884, into a commission from the Belgian Commercial Companies to...

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Chapter 2. William Henry Sheppard’s Country of My Forefathers

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pp. 49-77

On December 9, 1889, three days before George Washington Williams traveled to Hampton Institute to recruit students for his Congo expedition, William Henry Sheppard, a twenty-four-year-old Virginian who attended Hampton, was appointed to serve as a missionary. At a time when many African Americans had a regnant desire to go to Africa, Sheppard, a graduate of Stillman Institute in Alabama (then known as Tuscaloosa Theological Institute), distinctively pursued his dream. Trailing Williams by a few months,...

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Chapter 3. Booker T. Washington’s African at Home

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pp. 78-106

On January 17, 1890, Booker T. Washington addressed “a large audience of colored students and citizens” at Alabama State Normal School one month after George Washington Williams’s address at his alma mater and his former student William Henry Sheppard’s appointment to the American Presbyterian Congo Mission (APCM). Migration to the Congo was quite real and Washington took the opportunity to dismiss the entire prospect as misguided:...

Part II. The Twentieth-Century Cultures of the American Congo

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pp. 107-108

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Chapter 4. Missionary Cultures: The American Presbyterian Congo Mission, Althea Brown Edmiston, and the Languages of the Congo

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pp. 109-138

The American Presbyterian Congo Mission (APCM) was extraordinarily successful in recruiting African Americans to its ranks. For every William Sheppard who served in Africa, there were many more Booker T. Washingtons who dreamed of doing so but found themselves without the opportunity. Among the latter was a young Mary McLeod (Bethune) who, in 1894, submitted her application to the Northern Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), which, on the advice of white Lincoln University theology...

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Chapter 5. Literary Cultures: The Black Press, Pauline E. Hopkins, and the Rewriting of Africa

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pp. 139-162

In 1902–3, the Colored American Magazine published Of One Blood; Or, the Hidden Self, Pauline E. Hopkins’s novel about Reuel Briggs, an African American doctor, who, like the African American missionaries of his day, travels to Africa, making it, according to John Cullen Gruesser, “one of the earliest known fictional accounts of the continent by a black American writer.”1 The novel, which was being serialized at the precise time when Althea Brown Edmiston was traveling to the Congo, features as its heroine Dianthe Lusk, a...

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Chapter 6. Visual Cultures: Hampton Institute, William Sheppard’s Kuba Collection, and African American Art

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pp. 163-200

In 1916, more than a decade removed from her tenure at the Colored American Magazine and Voice of the Negro, Pauline Hopkins made one final foray into publishing with her New Era Magazine, whose two issues featured decidedly international coverage of Ethiopia, Liberia, Haiti, and Puerto Rico. One feature that appeared in both issues was Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller’s column, “Helpful Suggestions for Young Artists,” as part of its art department.1 As early as 1915, Fuller, who married Liberian doctor Solomon Fuller...

Part III. The Congo in Modern African American Poetics and Politics

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pp. 201-202

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Chapter 7. Near the Congo: Langston Hughes and the Geopolitics of Internationalist Poetry

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pp. 203-223

Langston Hughes’s “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” which has become a signature meditation on African American heritage and ancestry, includes one of the most famous invocations of the Congo in American letters: “I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.”1 The poem, which was originally published in the June 1921 issue of the NAACP’s Crisis, has become an iconic representative of Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance. With an opening couplet whose long, reflective second line begins by repeating the first...

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Chapter 8. Another Black Magazine with a Lumumba Poem: Patrice Lumumba and African American Poetry

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pp. 224-256

In John Oliver Killens’s novel, The Cotillion, or, One Good Bull Is Half the Herd (1971), a young woman named Yoruba is forced to negotiate her mother’s bourgeois aspirations with her own rising nationalist sensibilities. Yoruba’s burgeoning racial pride is entangled with her romantic relationship with a young poet, Ben Ali Lumumba: “It seemed like every day Yoruba came into the house with another Black magazine with a Lumumba poem and face somewhere inside.”1 In this scene, Yoruba is carrying a magazine with a...

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Chapter 9. The Chickens Coming Home to Roost: Malcolm X, the Congo, and Modern Black Nationalism

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pp. 257-287

While the Black Arts movement was engaging the postcolonial politics of the Congo, Malcolm X took Patrice Lumumba as the patron saint for the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU). Overall, Malcolm X took a longer historical view on the Congo. On November 28, 1964, a few days after returning to the United States from several months abroad, he appeared as a guest on the Barry Gray Show on WMCA radio in New York to discuss the Congo, a timely subject following the disastrous attempt by U.S. and Belgian forces...

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Conclusion

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pp. 288-294

Malcolm X was deeply disturbed by media coverage of the Congo. In an address at the London School of Economics less than two weeks before his assassination, he explained the utter dehumanization he experienced: “If you recall reading in the paper, they never talked about the Congolese who were being slaughtered. But as soon as a few whites, the lives of a few whites were at stake, they began to speak of ‘white hostages,’ ‘white missionaries,’ ‘white priests,’ ‘white nuns’—as if a white life, one white life, was of such...

Appendix. Malcolm X on the Congo, February 14, 1965, Detroit

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pp. 295-298

Notes

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pp. 299-362

Bibliography

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pp. 363-416

Credits

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pp. 417-418

Index

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pp. 419-440

Color Plates

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pp. a-h