The article examines two competing popular discourses about race formed around the Japanese delegation that toured the Atlantic seaboard in the summer of 1860 and argues that the divergent white attitudes toward the Asian visitors opened up new discursive opportunities for African American elites to assert national inclusion and critique white racism. Conflicting ideas about Japanese racial difference emerged and played out on the streets and in newspapers, for the diplomats meant differently to white male citizens along class lines—honorable state guests to the merchant and political class in pursuit of lucrative transpacific trade deals, on the one hand, and intruders into the public sphere of white male fraternity to working-class men, on the other. Such rupture, in turn, provided African Americans a platform from which to both criticize the pervasiveness of American racism and demand extension of respect to the domestic “gentlemen of color” as well.


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pp. 971-997
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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