Escape from New York
The New Negro Renaissance beyond Harlem
Publication Year: 2013
In the midst of vast cultural and political shifts in the early twentieth century, politicians and cultural observers variously hailed and decried the rise of the “New Negro.” This phenomenon was most clearly manifest in the United States through the outpouring of Black arts and letters and social commentary known as the Harlem Renaissance. What is less known is how far afield of Harlem that renaissance flourished—how much the New Negro movement was actually just one part of a collective explosion of political protest, cultural expression, and intellectual debate all over the world.
In this volume, the Harlem Renaissance “escapes from New York” into its proper global context. These essays recover the broader New Negro experience as social movements, popular cultures, and public behavior spanned the globe from New York to New Orleans, from Paris to the Philippines and beyond. Escape from New York does not so much map the many sites of this early twentieth-century Black internationalism as it draws attention to how New Negroes and their global allies already lived. Resituating the Harlem Renaissance, the book stresses the need for scholarship to catch up with the historical reality of the New Negro experience. This more comprehensive vision serves as a lens through which to better understand capitalist developments, imperial expansions, and the formation of brave new worlds in the early twentieth century.
Contributors: Anastasia Curwood, Vanderbilt U; Frank A. Guridy, U of Texas at Austin; Claudrena Harold, U of Virginia; Jeannette Eileen Jones, U of Nebraska–Lincoln; Andrew W. Kahrl, Marquette U; Shannon King, College of Wooster; Charlie Lester; Thabiti Lewis, Washington State U, Vancouver; Treva Lindsey, U of Missouri–Columbia; David Luis-Brown, Claremont Graduate U; Emily Lutenski, Saint Louis U; Mark Anthony Neal, Duke U; Yuichiro Onishi, U of Minnesota, Twin Cities; Theresa Runstedtler, U at Buffalo (SUNY); T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, Vanderbilt U; Michelle Stephens, Rutgers U, New Brunswick; Jennifer M. Wilks, U of Texas at Austin; Chad Williams, Brandeis U.
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
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...“We, the soldiers of the national liberation front of America, in the name of the workers and all the oppressed of this imperialist country have struck a fatal blow to the racist police state!” So declared a young female revolutionary in the 1981 dystopian thriller Escape from New York, as she hijacked Air Force One with the president on board. The year is 1997. Manhattan had been turned into a maximum ...
Introduction: New Negroes Forging a New World
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On a balmy Wednesday in October 1921, President Warren Harding stood before a racially mixed crowd of over one hundred thousand residents jam-packed into Birmingham, Alabama’s, Capital Park. What was supposed to be a simple speech commemorating the semicentennial of the city’s founding turned into an address haunted by the specter of the “race problem.” Harding stunned white listen-...
I. THE DIASPORIC OUTLOOK
1. “Brightest Africa” in the New Negro Imagination
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In 1894, Reverend W. E. C. Wright declared, “We are making a new Negro.” This Negro would differ from the “American Negro of thirty years ago [who] was a product of African paganism and American slavery that called itself Christian.” A prominent clergyman from Cleveland, Ohio, Wright gave credit to missionary schools for educating a new generation of African Americans that would challenge ...
2. Cuban Negrismo, Mexican Indigenismo: Contesting Neocolonialism in the New Negro Movement
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Alain Locke’s foreword to the “Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro” (1925) issue of Survey Graphic situates the “Negro Renaissance” among “nascent movements of folk-expression and self-determination” in countries like Mexico.1 Indeed, a year earlier, “Mexico: A Promise” appeared in the same journal. This earlier is-sue announces an exuberant “New Mexico” following the Mexican Revolution ...
3. An International African Opinion: Amy Ashwood Garvey and C. L. R. James in Black Radical London
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Late in summer 1935, as Italy began amassing its forces in Eretria along the Ethiopian border, activists, intellectuals, and laypeople throughout the African diaspora voiced their protest against this most recent act of European imperialist aggression. Alongside protests throughout the African diaspora, black anticolonial activists in London joined the International African Friends of Ethiopia (IAFE) to ...
II. NEW (NEGRO) FRONTIERS
4. The New Negro’s Brown Brother: Black American and Filipino Boxers and the “Rising Tide of Color”
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In November 1899, the Eleventh U.S. Cavalry reportedly found a pair of boxing gloves made by Sol Levinson of San Francisco abandoned in the Luzon village of San Mateo. According to the apocryphal story, Filipino prisoners of war claimed that a renegade soldier of the African American Twenty-Fourth Infantry had not only supplied them with boxing gloves but had even given them fighting les-...
5. The New Negro of the Pacific: How African Americans Forged Solidarity with Japan
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Hubert Harrison (1883–1927), an African Caribbean immigrant from St. Croix of the Dutch West Indies and more famously known as the “father of Harlem radi-calism,” knew very well why Japan mattered to African America and the darker world during and after World War I. Writing for the Negro World in November 1921, the organ of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association ...
6. “A Small Man in Big Spaces”: The New Negro, the Mestizo, and Jean Toomer’s Southwest
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Taos is an end-product. It is the end of the slope. It is an end-product of the Indians, an end-product of the Spaniards, an end-product of the Yankees and puritans. It must be plowed under. Out of the fertility which death makes in the soil, a new people with a new form may grow. I dedi-cate myself to the swift death of the old, to the whole birth of the new. ...
III. THE GARVEY MOVEMENT
7. Making New Negroes in Cuba: Garveyism as a Transcultural Movement
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Three cheers for the Hon. Marcus Garvey, three cheers for the Universal Negro Improvement Association, viva Antonio Maceo, viva Cuba, and John Daniels’s salute to Marcus Garvey, the Universal Negro Improvement Asso-ciation (UNIA), the Cuban republic, and Antonio Maceo, the iconic Afro-Cuban patriot, took place during a meeting in Guantánamo, Cuba, held on the occasion of ...
8. Reconfiguring the Roots and Routes of New Negro Activism: The Garvey Movement in New Orleans
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Late in fall 1946, W. E. B. Du Bois delivered a moving address at the Southern Negro Youth Congress in Columbia, South Carolina. In it he positioned the U.S. South as a key battleground not only in African Americans’ revolutionary quest for political empowerment but also in the global struggle to free all oppressed nations. The South, Du Bois informed his captivated audience, “is the firing line ...
IV. ENGENDERING THE EXPERIENCE
9. Black Modernist Women at the Parisian Crossroads
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In her 1932 essay “Eveil de la Conscience de Race” (“Awakening of Race Conscious-ness”), Martinican intellectual Paulette Nardal (1896–1985) not only predates Frantz Fanon’s assertion that, for the colonized Francophone individual, travel to Paris spurs the onset of racial consciousness. She also extends the claim by arguing that the construct of gender is as important as geography and nation in ...
10. A Mobilized Diaspora: The First World War and Black Soldiers as New Negroes
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By the time he arrived in London, Claude McKay was a rising star. The Jamaica native left for the United States in 1912, attending the Tuskegee Institute and Kansas State University, eventually settling in Harlem. A budding poet who had experienced moderate success, McKay burst onto the literary and political scene with the July 1919 appearance of “If We Must Die,” written in the midst of the ...
11. Climbing the Hilltop: In Search of a New Negro Womanhood at Howard University
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Regardless of the wish of many parents that their daughters become ad-juncts of “man,” modern life forces them to be individuals in much the In 1922, Lucy Diggs Slowe became the first official dean of women at Howard University in Washington, D.C.1 The newly created position, approved in 1920 by university president J. Stanley Durkee, mirrored the dean of men position that ...
12. New Negro Marriages and the Everyday Challenges of Upward Mobility
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We might be forgiven for thinking of New Negroes as merely race men and women, with no concerns save those that might advance the race. But New Negroes were also complex human beings, with identities as husbands, wives, and other fam-ily members. Just as it is important to expand the conversation on New Negroes geographically and beyond the arts and letters, scholars must reckon with the full ...
V. CONSUMER CULTURE
13. “You Just Can’t Keep the Music Unless You Move with It”: The Great Migration and the Black Cultural Politics of Jazz in New Orleans and Chicago
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What seems to me most important about these mass migrations was the fact that they must have represented a still further change within the Negro as far as his relationship with America is concerned. It can be called a psychological realignment, an attempt to reassess the worth of the black man within the society as a whole, an attempt to make the American ...
14. New Negroes at the Beach: At Work and Play outside the Black Metropolis
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On May 10, 1921, a ship carrying bananas from Jamaica docked at the port of Baltimore. Among its passengers was Austine Scarlett, a young Jamaican man who had stowed away in the ship’s hull. Liberated from his native island’s colonial-ruled peonage economy and dropped onto the streets of this burgeoning black metropolis, Scarlett steadily—and ruthlessly—built his own underground empire ...
VI. HOME TO HARLEM
15. “Home to Harlem” Again: Claude McKay and the Masculine Imaginary of Black Community
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When Claude McKay first set foot in Harlem, he was far from naive or new to America. In fact, when this twenty-one-year-old arrived in the United States from Clarendon Hills, Jamaica, in August 1912, not only was he a fairly well traveled and well educated man of peasant origins but he brought with him a distinct outsider perspective. This worldly intellectual man of working-class sensibilities ...
16. Not Just a World Problem: Segregation, Police Brutality, and New Negro Politics in New York City
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...“The cosmopolitan atmosphere [of New York City] knows less of color prejudice than probably any other city in the United States,” optimistically opined George Edmund Haynes in 1921.1 Haynes, founder of the National Urban League, and the first black man to graduate from Columbia University with a PhD in the new discipline of sociology, envisioned Harlem as an exemplar of interracial comity. ...
VII. SPEAKEASY: REFLECTING ON THE NEW NEW NEGRO STUDIES
17. The Conjunctural Field of New Negro Studies
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The New Negro is here. Perhaps no more courageous than the Old Negro who dropped his shackles in 1863, and fought against ignorance, propa-ganda, lethargy and persecution, but better informed, privy to his past, understanding of the present, unafraid of the future. . . . He is aware that the balance of power is shifting in the world and so are his cousins in ...
18. Underground to Harlem: Rumblings and Clickety-Clacks of Diaspora
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The railroad was perhaps the most prominent metaphor of travel and movement for blacks at the dawn of the New Negro era, as Pullman porters, jazz musicians, and World War I veterans became the ambassadors for diasporic formation—if we are to consider the vast geographical difference found across the United States and North America as, ultimately, an articulation of difference that pro-...
19. The Gendering of Place in the Great Escape
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The varied historical roots and routes of black diasporic political, cultural, and literary expressivity; rhetoric; and practices of New Negro womanhood and manhood, cosmopolitanism, and internationalism are at the heart of Escape from New York. And as the anthology’s title suggests and the volume’s contributors ably verify, Harlem, New York, was but one nerve center of such frenzied cre-...
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Often in scholarly endeavors, timing is everything. The paths of the editors of this volume crossed several times for nearly fifteen years leading up to this publica-tion. Not only were we nearly fellow graduate students at New York University but, in different years, we each held the Erskine A. Peters Fellowship at the Uni-versity of Notre Dame. In the years that followed our Peters years, we routinely ...
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Page Count: 464
Publication Year: 2013