Race, Nation, Continent, World: Liberation Struggles and Solidarity Modes

AHA Session 171
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Columbia 9 (Washington Hilton, Terrace Level)
Erik S. McDuffie, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The Negro Question in Cuba
Frances Peace Sullivan, Simmons College
Tricontinental Solidarity during the Cold War
Sandy Isabel Placido, Harvard University
Erik S. McDuffie, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Session Abstract

What are some historical examples of liberation movements identifying similarities between their movements and movements in other parts of the world? In these cases, how was solidarity proposed and carried out? What did solidarity look, sound, and feel like? These are a few of the questions that panelists are engaging with on this panel. We consider various modes of solidarity building between people and movements organizing for liberation from the 1920s to the 1980s. Although our papers illuminate how activists challenged geographic boundaries, presenters will engage with thinkers and organizers from a variety of spatial configurations, from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, to Puerto Rico, Palestine, Chicago, and the “franjas negras” or “black belts” of Cuba and the U.S. South.

There is particular synergy between the papers of Charisse Burden-Stelly and Frances Peace Sullivan. Both look at how local and international extensions of the Communist party dealt with racism and black people in Cuba and the United States during the 1920s and 1930s, an interwar period marked by global economic depression and worker unrest. Burden-Stelly looks at the “Negro Question,” and how a handful of leading communists discussed the relationship between Black self-determination in the U.S. South and anti-capitalist world revolution. Peace Sullivan examines efforts taken by the Communist Party in Cuba to engage with and recruit black workers--a Cuban version of the Negro Question which points to the transnational relationship between race and communism. Sara Awartani and Sandy Placido both discuss the discursive and material ways in which solidarity was built between anti-imperialist movements that were thousands of miles away from each other. Awartani explains how Puerto Rican activists in Chicago in the 1970s and the 1980s sharpened their political identity by using the Palestinian liberation struggle as a comparable reference point. Placido identifies the ideological debates and interpersonal organizing which resulted in the increased participation of Latin America and the Caribbean at international, anti-imperialist conferences during the 1950s and 1960s. In line with this year’s conference theme, our papers demonstrate how liberation activists of the twentieth century challenged the boundaries of nation-states by creating and promoting alternative solidarity modes, or grounds for identification, that attempted to unite struggles between oppressed people around the world.

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