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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 1 .

Black Globalism: The International Politics of a Non-state Nation
Sterling Johnson

(Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998)
262pp. Index. Bibl. 40.00; ISBN 1-85521-895-X.

Black Globalism is a well-written narrative of African Americans' views of Africa and their interest in it since 1619 when the first slaves arrived. Sterling Johnson begins by explaining how remnants of African culture as seen in language, religion, storytelling, etc., were important factors in helping slaves cope with the system. Furthermore, the memory of Africa was often a catalyst for slave revolts and conspiracies, like Denmark Vesey's in 1822 in Charleston, South Carolina. Finally, the African memory was the basis for the assertion that a worldwide Black brotherhood to which African Americans belong exists. This belief Johnson calls PanAfricanism.

Next, Johnson discusses why the issue of the African-American relationship to Africa has been controversial so often. Historically, most African-Americans consider America their homeland, and as David Walker's Appeal of 1829, shows have agitated stridently for equality here. At the same time, this view was challenged, especially in the pre-Civil War years, by Blacks who felt that they could only fulfill themselves in their own homeland, a position which Johnson calls PanNegro Nationalist. Most often, Africa was the proposed homeland, and Johnson tells how Blacks like Martin Delany, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, and Chief Alfred Sam, pursue this goal into the 20th century. Some whites for a variety of motives held the same view, and organized the American Colonization Society (1816 1910), which started a colony for freed Blacks in Liberia in 1822.

Johnson suggests that Pan-Africanism supplanted PanNegro Nationalism as the dominant method which African-Americans used to relate to Africa from the early decades of the 20th century to the 1970s. Included in the former category are Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X. However, it is here that one encounters a theoretical confusion that continues in the rest of the book. For example, Washington, DuBois, and Malcolm X, never took the notion of an African American return to Africa seriously, whereas Garvey did. Thus, Garvey is closer to PanNegro Nationalism but is classified as PanAfricanist. Furthermore, what caused the shift in thinking to PanAfricanism? Johnson fails to clarify these issues.

Finally, Johnson describes how since the 1970s--the era of Black Globalism--African-Americans despite their lack of representation in the State Department and economic weakness, through institutions like Randall Robinson's TransAfrica and the Black Congressional Caucus, etc., have become more assertive in foreign policy matters. Unfortunately, what distinguishes the period of Black Globalism from previous eras remains unclear. Overall, the book is a solid contribution to Black Nationalist literature.

Dr. John McCartney
Lafayette College

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