In the Company of Black Men: The African Influence on African American Culture in New York City

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From the subaltern assemblies of the enslaved in colonial New York City to the benevolent New York African Society of the early national era to the formation of the African Blood Brotherhood in twentieth century Harlem, voluntary associations have been a fixture of African-American communities.

In the Company of Black Men examines New York City over three centuries to show that enslaved Africans provided the institutional foundation upon which African-American religious, political, and social culture could flourish. Arguing that the universality of the voluntary tradition in African-American communities has its basis in collectivism—a behavioral and rhetorical tendency to privilege the group over the individual—it explores the institutions that arose as enslaved Africans exploited the potential for group action and mass resistance.

Craig Steven Wilder’s research is particularly exciting in its assertion that Africans entered the Americas equipped with intellectual traditions and sociological models that facilitated a communitarian response to oppression. Presenting a dramatic shift from previous work which has viewed African-American male associations as derivative and imitative of white male counterparts, In the Company of Black Men provides a ground-breaking template for investigating antebellum black institutions.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Wilder explores cultural expression with and through African societies in New York City. . . . He follows them from their origin, through their heyday, to their decline as capitalist culture overwhelmed the voluntary tradition.”
-Book News

“In this groundbreaking and superbly written work Craig Wilder provides a gendered and richly textured discussion of the African origins of black political consciousness and moral traditions in the United States. Through a skillful comparative discussion of African associations in North America, the Caribbean, Brazil and Africa he demonstrates the connections between African systems of values and beliefs, masculinity and the black public sphere. This book is essential reading in African American history, Diaspora studies and American studies.”
-Irma Watkins-Owens,author of Blood Relations: Caribbean Immigrants and the Harlem Community 1900-1930

“Though stony the road they trod, a small band of men developed and passed on an ethos of mutuality and collectivism brought from Africa. America owes a great debt to those men, and scholars owe a great debt to Craig Wilder, who has combined vast research and keen intelligence to tell their story. Wilder’s work will force a new look at a familiar landscape. Imagine—an African city at the base of the Hudson!”
-Noel Ignatiev,author of How the Irish Became White

“In the historiography on blacks in the colonial and antebellum periods, Craig Steven Wilder”s In the Company of Black Men stands out as one of the finest works of scholarship in the last decade.”
-Journal of American Ethnic History

“A beautifully researched, subtly argued exploration of the moral and intellectual life of New York’s African American community in its first two hundred years. As Wilder shows how African societies provided a foundation for black religion, politics, and cultural institutions, he opens a new window on New York history. We hear the voice and aspirations of black New Yorkers as we have never heard them before. Written with verve, In the Company of Black Men repeatedly rewards its readers with fresh insights and provocative arguments that leaves one thinking long after it has been set aside.”
-Elizabeth Blackmar,Columbia University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814793695
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 333
  • Sales rank: 813,437
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Craig Steven Wilder is Associate Professor of History and Chair of African-American Studies at Williams College. He is the author of A Covenant with Color: Race and Social Power in Brooklyn.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
"Some Little Tribute": An Introduction 1
I African Voluntary Associations and the Rise of Black Spiritual Culture
1 A Taunt from the Oppressed: The West African Institutional Legacy in New York City, 1644-1783 9
2 Raising Mother Zion: The Fusion of African and British Institutions in New York, 1784-1822 36
3 The Liberating Power of the Cross: The NYAS and the African Encounter with the Protestant Ethic, 1774-1796 54
4 "The Aristocracy of Character": African Societies and the Moral Consequence of Nationalism, 1784-1845 73
II African Voluntary Associations and the Making of the Public Sphere
5 "The Inmates of My Sanctum Sanctorum": African Voluntary Associations and the Public Sphere, 1808-1845 101
6 In the Company of Black Men: Manhood and Obligation in the African Confraternity, 1808-1857 120
7 "A Single Voice": African Societies, the Press, and the Public Sphere, 1827-1861 142
8 When Black Men Spoke of Freedom: Voluntary Associations and Nationalist Culture, 1809-1865 154
III The Transformation of African American Voluntarism
9 "The Gaudy Carnival": The African Declension in the NYASMR, 1863-1945 181
10 "Shall It Be a Woman?": The Transformation of Black Men's Voluntarism, 1865-1960 198
Notes 219
Bibliography 285
Index 311
About the Author 333
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