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From Tuskegee to Monrovia: The Transnational Dimension of Black Entrepreneurship During the Progressive Era

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Abstract:

When Randolph Bourne penned his now famous essay, “Transnational America” in 1916 he argued against a process of Americanization that promoted a uniform and standardized culture, rooted in the White, Anglo Saxon, Protestant and Western European heritage. Instead, Bourne celebrated cultural diversity and the creation of a distinctive multicultural society he said was the enviable and inevitable outcome of the American republican experiment. While Bourne’s focus on the immigrant experience and his failure to discuss how black Americans fit in his multicultural vision may be interpreted as a sign that he did not regard black culture as separate from American culture, the political, economic and social realities of the period clearly clash with Bourne’s vision. On the eve of the Jazz Age, mainstream American cultural values were defined by race more so than by any other factor and black Americans were faced with a dilemma: How to gain full equality, by integration or by assimilation into mainstream American politics, economics and culture? From Booker T. Washington to Kelly Miller and Mary Church Terrell, race leaders, club women and various race-based organizations advocated for full equality and for access to what James Truslow Adams later called “The American Dream.” Whereas some regarded racial uplift and economic advancement as the surest way toward full equality, others argued that only political agitation could produce results. Most supported both strategies. During the Progressive Era, as the black American elite pondered whether one could be both black and American--all the while fighting for better economic and social conditions--they continued on the diasporic tradition started by early black nationalists like Edward Blyden and Martin Delaney and once again, turned toward Africa and the Caribbean.

This paper analyzes how between 1900 and 1925 black leaders, businessmen and women positioned themselves as both Americans and as a part a trans national business network that encompassed the Caribbean and Africa. From the birth of the National Negro Business League in 1900 to the creation of the Black Star Line in 1919, black economic nationalism led black entrepreneurs to see themselves as the center a wider world, part of a national and of a transnational economy that truly transcended national boundaries. I will show that these men and women, promoted a transnational vision of racial progress crafted on the Black American experience, while advancing the economic and political interests of Black Americans at home and among the diaspora. While Matthew Frye Jacobson has successfully shown that, for marginalized European immigrants, assimilation into mainstream American society and culture demanded that they downplay their cultural differences while positioning themselves as firmly, non black, Black American business men and women did the opposite. They used racial oppression as a way to connect with the diaspora while furthering their own interests. They promoted an anti-colonial agenda based on a trans national vision of racial progress during which they would “lift” their African and Caribbean counterparts as they “climbed.”
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Association:
Name: 95th Annual Convention
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http://www.asalh.org


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p436179_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Coulibaly, Sylvie. "From Tuskegee to Monrovia: The Transnational Dimension of Black Entrepreneurship During the Progressive Era" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 95th Annual Convention, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, North Carolina, Sep 29, 2010 <Not Available>. 2014-11-27 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p436179_index.html>

APA Citation:

Coulibaly, S. , 2010-09-29 "From Tuskegee to Monrovia: The Transnational Dimension of Black Entrepreneurship During the Progressive Era" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 95th Annual Convention, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, North Carolina <Not Available>. 2014-11-27 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p436179_index.html

Publication Type: Individual Paper
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: When Randolph Bourne penned his now famous essay, “Transnational America” in 1916 he argued against a process of Americanization that promoted a uniform and standardized culture, rooted in the White, Anglo Saxon, Protestant and Western European heritage. Instead, Bourne celebrated cultural diversity and the creation of a distinctive multicultural society he said was the enviable and inevitable outcome of the American republican experiment. While Bourne’s focus on the immigrant experience and his failure to discuss how black Americans fit in his multicultural vision may be interpreted as a sign that he did not regard black culture as separate from American culture, the political, economic and social realities of the period clearly clash with Bourne’s vision. On the eve of the Jazz Age, mainstream American cultural values were defined by race more so than by any other factor and black Americans were faced with a dilemma: How to gain full equality, by integration or by assimilation into mainstream American politics, economics and culture? From Booker T. Washington to Kelly Miller and Mary Church Terrell, race leaders, club women and various race-based organizations advocated for full equality and for access to what James Truslow Adams later called “The American Dream.” Whereas some regarded racial uplift and economic advancement as the surest way toward full equality, others argued that only political agitation could produce results. Most supported both strategies. During the Progressive Era, as the black American elite pondered whether one could be both black and American--all the while fighting for better economic and social conditions--they continued on the diasporic tradition started by early black nationalists like Edward Blyden and Martin Delaney and once again, turned toward Africa and the Caribbean.

This paper analyzes how between 1900 and 1925 black leaders, businessmen and women positioned themselves as both Americans and as a part a trans national business network that encompassed the Caribbean and Africa. From the birth of the National Negro Business League in 1900 to the creation of the Black Star Line in 1919, black economic nationalism led black entrepreneurs to see themselves as the center a wider world, part of a national and of a transnational economy that truly transcended national boundaries. I will show that these men and women, promoted a transnational vision of racial progress crafted on the Black American experience, while advancing the economic and political interests of Black Americans at home and among the diaspora. While Matthew Frye Jacobson has successfully shown that, for marginalized European immigrants, assimilation into mainstream American society and culture demanded that they downplay their cultural differences while positioning themselves as firmly, non black, Black American business men and women did the opposite. They used racial oppression as a way to connect with the diaspora while furthering their own interests. They promoted an anti-colonial agenda based on a trans national vision of racial progress during which they would “lift” their African and Caribbean counterparts as they “climbed.”


Similar Titles:
Crashing the Black Gender Party or Return of the Sacred Black Masculine: Historicizing Progressive Black Masculinities, Representation, and Black Masculinism

Transnational Entrepreneurship in Turkey: Narratives How Social Networks Leverage the Transnational Entrepreneurship

Haiti and Black Transnationalism: The Cosmopolitan Contours of Black Intellectual Thought and Culture


 
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