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>> 63 2 Extending Diaspora The NAACP and Up-“Lift” Cultures in the Interwar Black Pacific The Negro’s gift of music has been almost entirely overlooked . . . yet, it is the magic thing by which he can bridge all chasms. —James Weldon Johnson In 1919 Reverend Henry Curtis McDowell, his wife Bessie Fonvielle McDowell, and their daughter arrived in Portuguese-colonized Angola. They were sent by the American Board of Congregational Missions, and their goal was to establish a ministry station run exclusively by African Americans. By 1922 their task was accomplished with the development of the Galangue Mission. During the meteoric rise of Garveyism, this couple had managed one of the major philosophical tenets of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA)—they “returned” to Africa and developed a small community where Africans and African Americans lived together. Despite an opportunity to be the poster children for the Garvey program, Reverend McDowell rejected him and his agenda outright. Believing Garvey to be an imperialist, he wrote, “Should Marcus Garvey and his crowd . . . come into possession of this part of Africa, it would be a sad day for natives. A black exploiter is as despicable as a white exploiter.” Their refutation of Garvey in service of a social welfare project of uplift was evident in more ways than their religious service to the native population. It was also witnessed in the ways in which they represented themselves and the diaspora. In 1930 the Galangue Mission celebrated fifty years of foreign missions. During the course of the celebration, the choir, under direction by Bessie 64 > 65 through the decades of a progressive U.S. Civil Rights Movement, the names W. E. B. Du Bois, Walter White, Rosa Parks, and Roy Wilkins serve as a genealogy for the NAACP and document but a few of the many icons of modern Black intellectual and activist practice. A pioneering scholar, militant advocate, and humanitarian, Du Bois is perhaps the most crucial figure in the history of the organization. As a founding member, he conceived of a program that was inclusive and broad in scope. The race men who met in Buffalo, New York, and closed ranks as the Niagara Movement adopted a constitution with numerous ideals that ultimately laid the groundwork for the principles of the NAACP, including the “freedom of speech and criticism, abolition of all caste distinctions based simply on race and colour, recognition of the principles of human brotherhood as a practical present creed, a belief in the dignity of labour, and [the] united effort to realize these ideals under wise and courageous leadership.”3 With the addition of white liberals in 1909, including reporter Mary White Ovington, pacifist and publisher of the Nation Oswald Garrison Villard, and Columbia University professor and pragmatist John Dewey, the NAACP was born.4 After the founding of this organization “New York became again the centre of the organized forces of self-assertion of equal rights and of insistence upon the impartial application of the fundamental principles of the Republic, without regard to race, creed, or colour.”5 Although very well intentioned, the NAACP often fell victim to its own ideologies. The organization prided itself on the stature and unimpeachable character of its leaders and members, thereby modeling a project of “racial uplift” that emphasized morality and education as the means to equality. Historian Kevin Gaines locates two separate periods of racial uplift in the Black community. One period, antebellum through the end of Reconstruction (1877), revolved around a “liberation theology ” measured by “a personal or collective spiritual—and potentially social—transcendence of worldly oppression and misery.” This idea of uplift vigorously championed education as the means toward freedom and was continued in the post-Reconstruction project directed by Black elites. For many of them, “uplift came to mean an emphasis on selfhelp , racial solidarity, temperance, thrift, chastity, social purity, patriarchal authority, and the accumulation of wealth.” This new emphasis on “class differentiation as race progress” reinforced the economic divide 66 > 67 music.”9 This example highlights the function of the Crisis as more than political propaganda—it also facilitated various community identifications through cultural exchange. Culture within the organization was a determining factor in its reception and popularity through the publication of writers such as Langston Hughes and Jessie Redmon Fauset and visual artists like Aaron Douglas. In addition to the Crisis, it was the music of the movement—the sound that resisted printing—that served to unite the cultural and the political in the lives...


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