Bulwark of the nation: northern black press, political radicalism, and civil rights 1859-1909
Greenidge, Kerri K.
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Between 1859 and 1909, the African-American press in Boston, Cleveland, New York, and Philadelphia nurtured a radical black political consciousness that challenged white supremacy on a national and local level. Specifically, black newspapers provided the ideological foundation for the New Negro movement of the 1910s and 1920s by cultivating this consciousness in readers. This dissertation examines black newspapers as political texts through what I have called figurative black nationalism in the ante-bellum Anglo-African, Douglass' Monthly, and Christian Recorder; through the political independence advocated in the post-Reconstruction New York Age, Cleveland Gazette, and Boston Advocate; and through the tum of the century Woman's Era, Colored American, and Boston Guardian. This study challenges fundamental assumptions about race, politics, and African-American activism between the Civil War and the Progressive Era. First, analyzing how ante-bellum African-Americans used the press to define radical abolition on their own terms shows that they adopted what I call figurative black nationalism through the Anglo-African's serialization of Martin R. Delany's 1859 novel Blake, or The Huts ofAmerica. Second, even as this press moved to the post-bellum south, northern African-Americans became increasingly alienated from the conservative rhetoric of racial spokesmen, particularly as the fall of Reconstruction led to repeal of the 1875 Civil Rights Act and failure of the 1890 Federal Elections Bill. Frances E.W. Harper's serialized novel Minnie's Sacrifice perpetuated the idea that free and freed people shared a post-bellum political outlook in the Christian Recorder, but such unity was elusive in reality. Consequently, northern African-Americans adopted a form of "mugwumpism" that questioned notions of blind African-American loyalty to the Republican Party. Finally, black northerners at the turn of the century reclaimed the radical abolition and political independence of the past in a successful assault on Tuskegee-style accommodation through a radical version of racial uplift. This radical racial uplift was shaped through northern black women's appropriation of Anna Julia Cooper's feminism, through Pauline Hopkins' serial novel Hagar's Daughter, and through William Monroe Trotter's participation in the Niagara Movement. Northern black politics, rather than white Progressivism or southern black conservatism, nurtured twentieth century civil rights activism.
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