We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Black Star

African American Activism in the International Political Economy

Ramla M. Bandele

Publication Year: 2008

This book describes how the first African American mass political organization was able to gain support from throughout the African diaspora to finance the Black Star Line, a black merchant marine that would form the basis of an enclave economy after World War I. Ramla M. Bandele explores the concept of diaspora itself and how it has been applied to the study of emigre and other ethnic networks. _x000B__x000B_In characterizing the historical and political context of the Black Star Line, Bandele analyzes the international political economy during 1919-25 and considers the black politics of the era, focusing particularly on Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association for its creation of the Black Star Line. She offers an in-depth case study of the Black Star Line as an instance of the African diaspora attempting to link communities and carry out a transnational political and economic project. Arguing that ethnic networks can be legitimate actors in international politics and economics, Bandele also suggests, however, that activists in any given diaspora do not always function as a unit._x000B_

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (45.5 KB)

Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (70.6 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (66.1 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (105.8 KB)
pp. ix-xii

How can a denigrated racial group with minimal resources participate in international politics and make even minimal progress toward their goals? I am fascinated that black activists over the course of two centuries have tried to work with similarly situated African-descended populations outside of Africa, ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (102.2 KB)
pp. xiii-xiv

I could not have completed this work without the loving support of my family and extended family. They have always encouraged my dreams and supported my work. However, I must also acknowledge other people who played important roles in bringing this work to fruition. ...

read more

1. A New Take on an Old Term: Operationalizing the Diaspora Concept

pdf iconDownload PDF (202.3 KB)
pp. 1-12

For many students of African American politics, the African diaspora is a paradox.1 On the one hand, a careful researcher can find many instances of political activity between African-descended populations situated outside of Africa. But on the other hand, there is no single African country with which to associate the diaspora. ...

read more

2. An Exploration of the Relevant Literature

pdf iconDownload PDF (389.9 KB)
pp. 13-41

There is a plethora of studies on the diaspora concept from different perspectives. Most of those that influenced my study are of historic origin, but there are a few from the political science discipline. Because my emphasis is on political activism, the voluminous literature on cultural aspects of diasporas is not elaborated on in this work.1 ...

read more

3. Still Waters: Understanding the Political Economy of the 1920s

pdf iconDownload PDF (225.8 KB)
pp. 42-55

To understand the creation and development of the Black Star Line, it is necessary to look at the international political economy1 of the era in which it functioned. Doing so contextualizes the study and assists in our understanding of some critical choices made by the BSL board of directors and its parent organization, ...

read more

4. Home Dock: The United States and the BSL

pdf iconDownload PDF (314.5 KB)
pp. 56-74

For many reasons, the politics and economic positions of the United States are important to this study. First, it is in the United States that the Black Star Line was launched. At the time, the U.S. economy was the rising industrial power in the world. As a result, it was in the United States that workers had the best opportunity to make stable wages. ...

read more

5. Charting the Black Atlantic: The UNIA and Its Location in African American Politics

pdf iconDownload PDF (348.7 KB)
pp. 75-99

Now we will survey the politics of the African diaspora, finally focusing upon the UNIA, the parent organization of the BSL. This discussion examines the UNIA’s purpose and organizational structure, especially how it linked with and functioned in the African diaspora. ...

read more

6. Shipping Politics: The Case of the Black Star Line

pdf iconDownload PDF (342.7 KB)
pp. 100-122

Up to this point, this book has been setting the stage for the UNIA’s effort to launch a race-based shipping line that would connect the diaspora both politically and economically, and then link the diaspora to its homeland, focusing specifically on Liberia. ...

read more

7. Stormy Seas: Government Obstruction of BSL Transnational Goals

pdf iconDownload PDF (163.2 KB)
pp. 123-131

Purchasing a ship through the shipping board minimized the deceptive selling practices the BSL had experienced in the private market. Tedious USSB bureaucratic processing delayed procurement, however. Any ship purchase had to be approved by several departments, including the ship sales division, the legal department, ...

read more

8. Marooned: The Rise and Fall of the Black Star Line

pdf iconDownload PDF (410.6 KB)
pp. 132-162

The Black Star Line’s performance can also be evaluated as a diaspora project designed to ameliorate political and economic problems. Sheffer highlights characteristics that I found useful for analyzing this venture: ideologies, political structure, financial base, education/skill levels, mobilization strategies, channels of influence, ...

read more

9. Clear Waters: Implications for the Study of Diasporas

pdf iconDownload PDF (219.4 KB)
pp. 163-176

What does the Black Star Line tell us about diasporas and their political possibilities? First, it demonstrates that there is and has been an African diaspora operating politically. Even as ephemeral as the BSL effort was, it impacted politics in the Caribbean region and gave colonial powers pause in West Africa. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (165.2 KB)
pp. 177-186

The diaspora concept has been used successfully in cultural and historical research. One purpose of this study has been to determine if the diaspora concept is applicable in political economy studies of transnational politics, particularly by African diaspora activists. ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (347.4 KB)
pp. 187-210


pdf iconDownload PDF (174.7 KB)
pp. 211-220


pdf iconDownload PDF (194.1 KB)
pp. 221-230

E-ISBN-13: 9780252090455
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252033391

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Universal Negro Improvement Association -- History.
  • African American businesspeople -- History.
  • African diaspora -- History.
  • Pan-Africanism -- History.
  • African American political activists -- History.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access