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

The Empire Abroad and the Empire at Home

African American Literature and the Era of Overseas Expansion

John Cullen Gruesser

Publication Year: 2012

In The Empire Abroad and the Empire at Home, John Cullen Gruesser establishes that African American writers at the turn of the twentieth century responded extensively and idiosyncratically to overseas expansion and its implications for domestic race relations. He contends that the work of these writers significantly informs not only African American literary studies but also U.S. political history.

Focusing on authors who explicitly connect the empire abroad and the empire at home ( James Weldon Johnson, Sutton Griggs, Pauline E. Hopkins, W.E.B. Du Bois, and others), Gruesser examines U.S. black participation in, support for, and resistance to expansion. Race consistently trumped empire for African American writers, who adopted positions based on the effects they believed expansion would have on blacks at home. Given the complexity of the debates over empire and rapidity with which events in the Caribbean and the Pacific changed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it should come as no surprise that these authors often did not maintain fixed positions on imperialism. Their stances depended on several factors, including the foreign location, the presence or absence of African American soldiers within a particular text, the stage of the author’s career, and a given text’s relationship to specific generic and literary traditions.

No matter what their disposition was toward imperialism, the fact of U.S. expansion allowed and in many cases compelled black writers to grapple with empire. They often used texts about expansion to address the situation facing blacks at home during a period in which their citizenship rights, and their very existence, were increasingly in jeopardy.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (55.1 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (56.3 KB)
pp. v

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (39.5 KB)
pp. vii-viii

My thought process, research, and writing have been significantly shaped and greatly enriched by my participation in the activities of several professional associations and scholarly communities. These include not only large organizations such as the American Literature Association (led by the indefatigable...

read more

Introduction: Empire at Home and Abroad

pdf iconDownload PDF (95.3 KB)
pp. 1-16

Best known for the role it plays in the “Forethought” to The Souls of Black Folk (1903), W. E. B. Du Bois’s famous declaration “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line” (100) originally appeared three years earlier in “The Present Outlook for the Dark Races of Mankind.” In this speech...

Part 1. African American Literature and the Spanish-Cuban-American War

read more

Chapter 1. Cuban Generals, Black Sergeants, and White Colonels: The African American Poetic Response to the Spanish-Cuban-American War

pdf iconDownload PDF (113.5 KB)
pp. 19-38

In The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of U.S. Culture (2003), Amy Kaplan sees “a battle raging over the interconnected representations of race, manhood, nation, and empire” (125) in the conflicting black and white representations of what she refers to as the “legendary” events on San Juan Hill.1 She notes that...

read more

Chapter 2. Wars Abroad and at Home in Sutton E. Griggs’s Imperium in Imperio and The Hindered Hand

pdf iconDownload PDF (122.3 KB)
pp. 39-60

Between 1899 and 1908, Sutton E. Griggs (1872– 1933) published five long works of fiction, making him the most prolific late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century African American novelist. For a variety of reasons, these texts about black and white southerners have frustrated attempts by critics to arrive at...

Part 2. African American Literature, the Philippine-American War, and Expansion in the Pacific

read more

Chapter 3. Black Burdens, Laguna Tales, and “Citizen Tom” Narratives: African American Writing and the Philippine-American War

pdf iconDownload PDF (157.7 KB)
pp. 63-95

Helen H. Jun has coined the term “black orientalism” to refer to representations of Chinese people in the black press in the second half of the 1800s and the early 1900s. Rather than categorizing it as either racist or antiracist, Jun contends that black orientalism, which draws on the discourses of U.S....

read more

Chapter 4. Annexation in the Pacific and Asian Conspiracy in Central America in James Weldon Johnson’s Unproduced Operettas

pdf iconDownload PDF (101.9 KB)
pp. 96-112

In Afro-Orientalism, Bill V. Mullen contends that U.S. black engagement with Asia began with a series of articles W. E. B. Du Bois published in the Crisis; however, as established in chapter 3 and confirmed in the ensuing discussions of James Weldon Johnson’s libretti for operettas dating from 1899, it occurred...

read more

Coda: Pauline Hopkins, the Colored American Magazine, and the Critique of Empire Abroad and at Home in “Talma Gordon”

pdf iconDownload PDF (88.7 KB)
pp. 113-126

Although some critics, beginning with Gwendolyn Brooks in 1978, have cast Pauline Hopkins (1859–1930) as a conservative, Booker T. Washington regarded her very differently. Alarmed by what he deemed the radical nature of her own writings and those of others that she published in the Colored American...


pdf iconDownload PDF (87.0 KB)
pp. 127-138

Works Cited

pdf iconDownload PDF (104.5 KB)
pp. 139-152


pdf iconDownload PDF (348.2 KB)
pp. 153-159

E-ISBN-13: 9780820344683
E-ISBN-10: 0820344680
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820334349
Print-ISBN-10: 0820334340

Page Count: 168
Illustrations: 1 figure
Publication Year: 2012