In the Cause of Freedom: Radical Black Internationalism from Harlem to London, 1917-1939

In the Cause of Freedom: Radical Black Internationalism from Harlem to London, 1917-1939

Minkah Makalani

Language: English

Pages: 328

ISBN: 1469617528

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this intellectual history, Minkah Makalani reveals how early-twentieth-century black radicals organized an international movement centered on ending racial oppression, colonialism, class exploitation, and global white supremacy. Focused primarily on two organizations, the Harlem-based African Blood Brotherhood, whose members became the first black Communists in the United States, and the International African Service Bureau, the major black anticolonial group in 1930s London, In the Cause of Freedom examines the ideas, initiatives, and networks of interwar black radicals, as well as how they communicated across continents. Through a detailed analysis of black radical periodicals and extensive research in U.S. English, Dutch, and Soviet archives, Makalani explores how black radicals thought about race; understood the ties between African diasporic, Asian, and international workers' struggles; theorized the connections between colonialism and racial oppression; and confronted the limitations of international leftist organizations. Considering black radicals of Harlem and London together for the first time, In the Cause of Freedom reorients the story of blacks and Communism from questions of autonomy and the Kremlin's reach to show the emergence of radical black internationalism separate from, and independent of, the white Left.

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formed PCF were reluctant to make colonial liberation a central concern of their work. The Comintern’s response to the arguments of Asian radicals had not transformed how national Communist parties functioned. The PCF responded to Nguyen’s concerns only after a Comintern directive instructed the English, French, and Italian parties to establish colonial commissions to make contact with anticolonial revolutionary organizations and “establish a closer contact with the oppressed colonial masses.”42

noting what he considered “the greatest difficulty that the Communists of America have got to overcome— the fact that they first have got to emancipate themselves from the ideas they entertain towards the Negroes before they can be able to reach the Negroes with any kind of radical propaganda.”91 If the WP continued to ignore racism within its ranks and to overlook the marginalization of black people and their concerns, McKay warned, its claims to support black liberation would seem meaningless

not attend Domingo’s lecture, came that same month in the Messenger’s “Open Forum” on Caribbeans. Domingo reminded his colleagues that Caribbean radicals, especially from the ABB, had been Garvey’s staunchest critics. More important, Domingo was bothered that in pushing for Garvey’s deportation, his Messenger colleagues had stressed Garvey’s nationality over his faults and crimes. Along with claims An Outcast Here as Outside 107 that Caribbeans posed a “menace to the progress of American

Black radicals nevertheless remained determined to push a different agenda at the Sanhedrin. Before the opening session, ABB member and WP delegate Lovett Fort-Whiteman publicly confronted Miller to demand that black laborers receive attention at the conference. Possibly caught off guard, Miller agreed that “the labor issue is the most important issue before the Race,” but he opposed the “loud-voiced loquacity and sonorous silliness” that he believed attended discussions of lynching, segregation,

influence. His bold involvement in protests against British ambassador Sir Esme Howard’s visit to campus garnered him significant attention, as did his criticisms of key university faculty. T. Ras Makonnen recalled that Padmore encouraged his classmates to question their professors, especially Kelly Miller, rather than “treat them as gods.” “You can’t allow this buffoon Kelly Miller to insult Africans like this,” Padmore explained. He especially protested Miller’s penchant for demeaning African

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