The Empire Abroad and the Empire at Home: African American Literature and the Era of Overseas Expansion

The Empire Abroad and the Empire at Home: African American Literature and the Era of Overseas Expansion

by John Gruesser


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The Empire Abroad and the Empire at Home: African American Literature and the Era of Overseas Expansion by John Gruesser

In The Empire Abroad and the Empire at Home, John Cullen Gruesser establishes that African American writers at the turn of the twentieth century responded extensively and idiosyncratically to overseas expansion and its implications for domestic race relations. He contends that the work of these writers significantly informs not only African American literary studies but also U.S. political history.

Focusing on authors who explicitly connect the empire abroad and the empire at home ( James Weldon Johnson, Sutton Griggs, Pauline E. Hopkins, W.E.B. Du Bois, and others), Gruesser examines U.S. black participation in, support for, and resistance to expansion. Race consistently trumped empire for African American writers, who adopted positions based on the effects they believed expansion would have on blacks at home. Given the complexity of the debates over empire and rapidity with which events in the Caribbean and the Pacific changed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it should come as no surprise that these authors often did not maintain fixed positions on imperialism. Their stances depended on several factors, including the foreign location, the presence or absence of African American soldiers within a particular text, the stage of the author’s career, and a given text’s relationship to specific generic and literary traditions.

No matter what their disposition was toward imperialism, the fact of U.S. expansion allowed and in many cases compelled black writers to grapple with empire. They often used texts about expansion to address the situation facing blacks at home during a period in which their citizenship rights, and their very existence, were increasingly in jeopardy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780820344065
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
Publication date: 12/01/2012
Pages: 168
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

JOHN CULLEN GRUESSER is a professor of English at Kean University in New Jersey. He is the author of White on Black and Black on Black and the editor of The Unruly Voice.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Empire at Home and Abroad 1

Part 1 African American Literature and the Spanish-Cuban-American War

Chapter 1 Cuban Generals, Black Sergeants, and White Colonels: The African American Poetic Response to the Spanish-Cuban-American War 19

Chapter 2 Wars Abroad and at Home in Sutton E. Griggs's Imperium in Imperio and The Hindered Hand 39

Part 2 African American Literature, the Philippine-American War, and Expansion in the Pacific

Chapter 3 Black Burdens, Laguna Tales, and "Citizen Tom" Narratives: African American Writing and the Philippine-American War 63

Chapter 4 Annexation in the Pacific and Asian Conspiracy in Central America in James Weldon Johnson s Unproduced Operettas 96

Coda: Pauline Hopkins, the Colored American Magazine, and the Critique of Empire Abroad and at Home in "Talma Gordon" 113

Notes 127

Works Cited 139

Index 153

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