Sunday, January 4, 2009: 3:10 PM
Petit Trianon (Hilton New York)
This paper examines the centrality of Civil War and Reconstruction memory to African American editors between 1889 and 1898. By analyzing their assessment of Republican southern policy in conjunction with their views on American foreign policy, this paper demonstrates how the African American press kept alive the promises but learned from failures of Reconstruction. At that very time that many Americans were beginning to embrace formalized empire, members of the African American press were challenging Republican leaders to remember the legacies of Reconstruction at home. They did so as Republican presidents began to stress international issues as a potential way to overcome traditional partisan affiliations. Most enticingly, in both 1891 and 1898 Presidents Harrison and McKinley respectively used a journey through the South to try to link American domestic and international policy. In essence stressing sectional reconciliation through foreign policy, these two journeys relegated African American concerns to the back burner. African American editors used the occasion, therefore, to demonstrate the ways in which race, region, and future American empire were inextricably linked.
Although scholars have long known of the importance of the African American press, current historiography has ignored their pivotal role as heirs to the radicalism of the Civil War. By examining key African American newspapers on issues of both domestic and international policy, this study encourages scholars of the late-nineteenth century to reconceptualize a vital chapter in international history.