Empire and the Black Pacific

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This JWJI colloquium talk by Edlie Wong of the University of Maryland, “Empire and the Black Pacific: Pauline Hopkins, S.E.F.C.C. Hamedoe, and the “Dark Races of the Twentieth Century,” mines the pages of the earliest and most influential of African American literary magazines, the Boston-based “Colored American Magazine” (1900-1909) and its southern rival, the Atlanta-based “Voice of the Negro” (1904-7) to investigate how black writers and activists addressed the complex links between U.S. race relations and colonial policies in the Asia-Pacific. The CAM was the most widely read black American periodical in the first decade of the twentieth century, and editor Pauline E. Hopkins was its best-known female personality. Established in 1900, the CAM witnessed the transformation of the U.S. into a global power with the annexation of Hawaii followed by Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, and American Samoa. “What is to be our attitude toward these new lands and toward the masses of dark men and women who inhabit them?” W.E.B. Du Bois asked in an 1899 lecture. Hopkins’s thinking as represented in her editorial choices and her own writing for the CAM through her later contributions to the Voice, seized on imperial expansion’s utopian possibilities to imagine new international solidarities to bring about global resistance to racial capitalism. Her writings contribute to an emerging black American discourse on the “Pacific,” as Asia became more geopolitically significant to the U.S. over the course of the twentieth century. (September 21, 2020)

The James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference supports research, teaching, and public dialogue that examine race and intersecting dimensions of human difference including but not limited to class, gender, religion, and sexuality.

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