THE GOLDEN AGE OF BLACK NATIONALISM, 1850-1925 by Wilson Jeremiah Moses


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Between the Fugitive Slave Act (1850) and the imprisonment of Marcus Garvey (1925), traditional interpretations of black history offer few consoling moments. But Professor Moses argues that the period was of lasting importance in the growth of racial consciousness. Through intellectual currents, black nationalism transmitted Western values. Therefore, says Moses, nationalism was a conservative movement (rather than invariably ""leftist""). Literate blacks saw nationalism as a way of confronting the ""painful debasement"" of Africa; civilization as progress was the ascendant idea, and Africa was to be ""uplifted."" In developing his theses, Moses provides much information on: the anti-Catholic strain in black nationalist propaganda; the forerunners of Garvey; black women's clubs and their relationships to white feminists; how black chauvinism echoed sentimental Christian racism. There is also a provocative reading of Du Bois' work and a useful discussion of early black polemical novels. But there are reductive, simplistic tendencies in the analysis, the consequence of Moses' limited notion of culture as necessarily conservative and elitist, his narrow equation of nationalism with ""authoritarian collectivism."" Parallels are strained (Booker T. Washington is not the heir to Frederick Douglass' radicalism) and current attitudes are applied retrospectively, so that black history often seems merely a series of bitterly claimed steps. Ultimately the thematic overlay was unnecessary, for the book investigates--valuably--an era of black nationalism seldom acknowledged.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1978
ISBN: 0195206398
Publisher: Archon--dist. by Shoe String Press