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The Americans are Coming!

Robert Trent Vinson

Publication Year: 2011

For more than half a century before World War II, black South Africans and “American Negroes”—a group that included African Americans and black West Indians—established close institutional and personal relationships that laid the necessary groundwork for the successful South African and American antiapartheid movements. Though African Americans suffered under Jim Crow racial discrimination, oppressed Africans saw African Americans as free people who had risen from slavery to success and were role models and potential liberators. Many African Americans, regarded initially by the South African government as “honorary whites” exempt from segregation, also saw their activities in South Africa as a divinely ordained mission to establish “Africa for Africans,” liberated from European empires. The Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, the largest black-led movement with two million members and supporters in forty-three countries at its height in the early 1920s, was the most anticipated source of liberation. Though these liberation prophecies went unfulfilled, black South Africans continued to view African Americans as inspirational models and as critical partners in the global antiapartheid struggle. The Americans Are Coming! is a rare case study that places African history and American history in a global context and centers Africa in African Diaspora studies. 

Published by: Ohio University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. i-v


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xii

In a sense, The Americans Are Coming! developed long before I entered academia. As a teenager in mid-1980s Los Angeles, like many young black males I had several unhappy experiences with police officers who responded to the crack epidemic and the more violent gang activity of that time by occupying our neighborhood with constantly circling helicopters equipped with spotlights...

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pp. xiii-xvi

My name is on the cover of this book, but I could not have written it without the love, care, and support of countless people who sustained me as a person. The Vinson, McClendon, Olive, Osiapem, and Harvey families have been bedrocks. Of particular importance has been my mother, Roslyn Vinson-Henry, whose enthusiastic energy and moves to all five boroughs of New York and...

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Introduction: The Americans Are Coming!

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pp. 1-10

In the mid-1920s, the South African minister Daniel William Alexander, the son of a Cuban father and a shipbuilder who fought for the British in the South African War (1899–1902), complained that the segregationist laws of South African prime minister James Hertzog were “anti-native” and asserted that blacks worldwide had “long needed a leader like the Hon. Marcus Garvey.”1...

Part I: Providential Design

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Chapter 1: American Negroes as Racial Models-From “Honorary Whites” to “Black Perils”

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pp. 13-33

In October 1890, the Virginia Jubilee Singers, ten graduates of Hampton Institute in Virginia, arrived in Cape Town, South Africa, for a tour that was scheduled to take several weeks but would last nearly five years.1 Their performances fostered a powerful new era of black transnational relationships between the United States and South Africa and would transform the South...

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Chapter 2: The Failed Dream of British Liberation and Christian Regeneration [INCLUDES IMAGE PLATES]

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pp. 34-60

In the late 1870s, a Zulu named John Nembula, who would become South Africa’s first African physician, studied at schools of the American Board for Foreign Missions in Amanzimtoti, Natal. His grandmother and his father were the American Board’s first converts.1 Nembula went on to teach at Amanzimtoti Institute, later known as Adams College, in Natal, and then, in 1881, he...

Part II: American Apocalypse-Prophetic Garveyism and the Dream of American Negro Liberation

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Chapter 3: The Rise of Marcus Garvey and His Gospel of Garveyism in Southern Africa

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pp. 63-81

In 1916, a virtually penniless, twenty-eight-year-old Marcus Garvey, the son of a stonemason and a domestic, arrived in Harlem from his home in Jamaica. His purpose was to raise funds for a school in Jamaica modeled after Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. No one would have predicted that he would not return home for eleven years, after presiding over the rise and the decline...

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Chapter 4: Transnational Martyrdom and the Spread of Garveyism in South Africa

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pp. 82-102

Garveyism triumphed in South Africa despite the successful attempts by the U.S. government and hostile black rivals to exploit Marcus Garvey’s stubborn personality and poor money-management skills, which ultimately led to his jailing and deportation from America. Garveyism triumphed, too, despite the aggressive anti-Garvey and anti-UNIA attacks launched by the South African...

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Chapter 5: “Charlatan or Savior?”-Dr. Wellington’s Prophecies and Program of Deliverance

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pp. 103-118

In 1926, an American Negro known as Dr. Butler Hansford Wellington told transfixed Africans in South Africa a fascinating tale. He said that he had left his medical practice in Chicago to tell them that the United States, the most powerful nation on earth, was led by a “mighty race of black people overseas, dreaded by all European nations,” who made “locomotives, ships, motor cars,...

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Chapter 6: A Dream Deferred-The End of the Dream of American Negro Liberation andthe Beginnings of the Global Antiapartheid Movement

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pp. 119-145

By 1930, Garveyism was so pervasive in South Africa that even chiefs and headmen (government employees charged with administering and enforcing colonial law) became Garveyites to further their objectives. Garvey lost control of his organization and the idea of Garveyism, yet Africans continued to evoke the dream of American Negro liberation until World War II...

Essay on Sources and Methodology

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pp. 147-149


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pp. 151-202


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pp. 203-226


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pp. 227-235

E-ISBN-13: 9780821444054

Publication Year: 2011