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Brothers and Strangers: Black Zion, Black Slavery, 19141940
Unprecedented in scope and detail, "Brothers and Strangers" is a vivid history of how, during the interwar years, the mythic Africa of the black American imagination ran into the realities of Africa the place. Tracking the fate of Marcus Garvey's early-twentieth-century back-to-Africa movement, Ibrahim Sundiata explores the paradox at its core. While long...
Unprecedented in scope and detail, "Brothers and Strangers" is a vivid history of how, during the interwar years, the mythic Africa of the black American imagination ran into the realities of Africa the place. Tracking the fate of Marcus Garvey's early-twentieth-century back-to-Africa movement, Ibrahim Sundiata explores the paradox at its core. While long considered by African Americans to be a 'Black Zion', a longed-for homeland free from oppression, Liberia was itself an enslaver of blacks. Indeed, for much of the early twentieth century, the main export of Liberia was slave labour. "Brothers and Strangers" provides historical context for troubling questions about whether oppressive African regimes should be defended from the censure of an arrogant and racist West or denounced in the name of the people who suffer under them.Sundiata's account is based on extensive archival research, much of it conducted in the Liberian National Archives. In the 1920s, Garvey's U.S.-based Universal Negro Improvement Association, working with the Liberian government, mounted the last great African American emigrationist movement. As Sundiata explains, the plan collapsed when faced with opposition from the Liberian elite as well as with ethnic and class divisions within Liberia that belied Garvey's vision of a unified Black World.He describes how, in the wake of Garveyism and allegations that Liberia, a state founded by freedpersons, engaged in slavery, the same Liberian ruling elite that had rejected emigration turned to 'brothers beyond the sea' for support. Propelled by a mythic vision that viewed Africa as a victim of slavery but not as a perpetrator of it, a varied group of white and black anti-imperialists, led by W. E. B. DuBois, helped Liberia in its fight to maintain its independence. In tracing this complex history, Sundiata shows that the struggle to keep Liberia free of white imperialism entailed a blindness to its crimes that may have cleared the way for future abuses by African regimes against their own people.
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