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Spectres of 1919

Class and Nation in the Making of the New Negro


Publication Year: 2003

With the New Negro movement and the Harlem Renaissance, the 1920s was a landmark decade in African American political and cultural history, characterized by an upsurge in racial awareness and artistic creativity. In Spectres of 1919 Barbara Foley traces the origins of this revolutionary era to the turbulent year 1919, identifying the events and trends in American society that spurred the black community to action and examining the forms that action took as it evolved._x000B__x000B_Unlike prior studies of the Harlem Renaissance, which see 1919 as significant mostly because of the geographic migrations of blacks to the North, Spectres of 1919 looks at that year as the political crucible from which the radicalism of the 1920s emerged. Foley draws from a wealth of primary sources, taking a bold new approach to the origins of African American radicalism and adding nuance and complexity to the understanding of a fascinating and vibrant era.

Published by: University of Illinois Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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pp. 4-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

The year 1919 has for some time had a particular resonance for me. John Dos Passos, about whom I long ago wrote a Ph.D. dissertation, named the second volume of his extraordinary U.S.A. trilogy after this critical juncture. As both a leftist who came of age in the late 1960s and a scholar who increasingly focused on African American literature, ...

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1. The New Negro and the Left

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pp. 1-69

Writing in The New Negro in 1925, Alain Locke was purportedly describing a self-evident state of affairs when he proclaimed that the “deep feeling of race” currently being manifested as the “mainspring of Negro life” is “radical in tone, but not in purpose” and that “only the most stupid forms of opposition, misunderstanding or persecution could make it otherwise.” ...

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2. Nation, Class, and the Limits of the Left

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pp. 70-121

In the crucible of 1919, a class-based analysis of racism enjoyed widespread currency among liberals, progressives, and leftists; the struggle against racial inequality was frequently linked with the necessity to transform or abolish capitalist social relations. But if this was the case, why was this trend reversed? ...

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3. The Rhetoric of Racist Antiradicalism

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pp. 122-158

Thus far the derivation of the New Negro movement in the political radicalism of the wartime and immediate postwar years and various contradictions internal to the theory and practice of the Left that would contribute to the supersession of class struggle by culturalism have been analyzed. ...

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4. Metonymic Nationalism, Culture Wars, and the Politics of Counterdiscourse

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pp. 159-197

Having explored the substance and rhetoric of racist antiradicalism, the dominant ideology informing political discourse and rationalizing state and business repression amidst the social upheavals of 1919 and its Thermidorian aftermath, I now examine various attempts by progressives and leftists to construct counterdiscourses ...

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5. From the New Negro to The New Negro

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pp. 198-250

Returning to the question raised at the outset of this inquiry, how did the arms-bearing, anticapitalist New Negro of 1919 get transmuted into the culture hero of The New Negro (1925)? While the causal threads are many, Alain Locke’s guiding role is clearly of central importance. ...


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pp. 251-294


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pp. 295-314

E-ISBN-13: 9780252091247
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252075858

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2003