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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Crossroads Lecture Series: "A Small Island: African American Encounters with Britain in the Era of Jim Crow"

Jane Rhodes will present "A Small Island: African American Encounters with Britain in the Era of Jim Crow" as part of the Black Studies and American Studies at the Crossroads lecture series. The event will begin at 3:30pm in room 815 Social Science Tower on Monday, December 2nd. The event flyer can be found here: Rhodes-1.pdf

In Paul Gilroy's The Black Atlantic, he rethinks modernity through the history and movement of the African diaspora. Gilroy takes as his focal point the writing and creative production of African American travelers, from Martin Delaney to Richard Wright, and their intellectual engagement with a "global, coalitional politics" that undermined narrow notions of nationality and ethnic particularity. This paper follows Gilroy's observation that numerous African Americans "went to Europe and had their perceptions of America and racial domination shifted as a result of their experiences." I focus on the journalism and memoirs of key African American intellectuals and activists in the early 20th century as they ventured across the Atlantic toward Europe, and in particular Britain. Paradoxically, the Black Atlantic stands as the site of blacks' subjection while also offering the possibility of escape from their abject status. For some these travels were motivated by a desire for knowledge and recognition; others sought to project black American's grievances to the world. Their journeys each began with a modernist vision of Europe as a place of culture and civilization where intellect triumphed over color; a place that might release them from the exigencies of identity. After spending time abroad they emerged personally transformed, though not always enamored. Writers from Ida Wells-Barnett to Roi Otteley were shaped by geopolitical currents and the increasing visibility of black Britons. This paper considers the transformation of black Americans' attitudes toward Britain--from Anglophilia to Anglophobia--as they developed pan-Africanist sensitibilities and a critique of British imperialism.
Dr. Rhodes is Dean for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and Professor and Chair of American Studies at Macalester College. Rhodes specializes in the study of race, gender and mass media; the black press; and media and social movements. Rhodes' is the author of Mary Ann Shadd Cary: The Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth Century (Indiana University Press, 1998) and Framing the Black Panthers: The Spectacular Rise of a Black Power Icon (The New Press, 2007)