Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

First Advisor

Phoebe SK. Young

Second Advisor

Fredy González

Third Advisor

Robert Buffington

Fourth Advisor

Peter H. Wood

Fifth Advisor

Cheryl Higashida

Abstract

This dissertation traces twentieth-century cultural and intellectual exchange within black consciousness movements of the US and Latin America through the lives of influential activists, artists, and authors who built transnational networks of support and collaboration. I argue that these networks fostered the construction of a distinct African diasporic imagination of the Americas. This imagination projected an alternative and necessary space where African descendants (and it was eventually argued all Americans) could re-engage with and rewrite historical memory. Within this space African heritage was celebrated for its inherent value and deep and rich contribution to the hemisphere in all areas: culturally, politically, socially, and economically. From this imagined familial diasporic space, the tensions between difference and commonality were reconciled for greater purpose. The family of ekobio, who collectively addressed the pain of the past, became a source from which many could draw the great resilience that allowed the fight against racism and toward social justice to continue in so many spheres and throughout the adult lives of the activists and artists discussed here.

This imagination was composed of several unique factors. It differed from, yet was in conversation with, movements such as Pan-Africanism and international anti-colonial movements. The continent(s) of the Americas was an essential geographic, spiritual, and conceptual framework within which this understanding of the diasporic experience was situated, and while Pan-Americanism existed long before the twentieth century, certain postwar historical moments created shifts and changes in the diasporic imagination in innovative ways between 1940 and 2000. Within this diasporic imagination, Francophone négritude, afrocubanismo, Caribbean and South American negritud and negrismo, and Black Power were all influential to the historical actors included in this history. These movements appear in the narrative as the activists encountered and made meaning of them. This study focuses specifically on African descendants of Colombia, Cuba, Panama, Brazil, and the US, and traces multiple cultural influences and points of exchange within an evolving network that included other nations of the Americas.

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