The Black Pacific Narrative: Geographic Imaginings of Race and Empire between the World Wars

Etsuko Taketani

Dartmouth College Press, 2014

Find it in the UT Libraries Catalog

The Black Pacific Narrative: Geographic Imaginings of Race and Empire between the World Wars chronicles the profound shift in geographic imaginings that occurred in African American culture as the United States evolved into a bioceanic global power. The author examines the narrative of the “black Pacific” the literary and cultural production of African American narratives in the face of America’s efforts to internationalize the Pacific and to institute a “Pacific Community,” reflecting a vision of a hemispheric regional order initiated and led by the United States. The black Pacific was imagined in counterpoint to this regional order in the making, which would ultimately be challenged by the Pacific War. The principal subjects of study include such literary and cultural figures as James Weldon Johnson, George S. Schuyler, artists of the black Federal Theatre Project, Langston Hughes, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Walter White, all of whom afford significant points of entry to a critical understanding of the stakes of the black Pacific narrative. Adopting an approach that mixes the archival and the interpretive, the author seeks to recover the black Pacific produced by African American narratives, narratives that were significant enough in their time to warrant surveillance and suspicion, and hence are significant enough in our time to warrant scholarly attention and reappraisal.

A compelling study that will appeal to a broad, international audience of students and scholars of American studies, African American studies, American literature, and imperialism and colonialism.

-Description from publisher

Mercy Street Revealed: A Blog

Dive Deeper into the Series with Mercy Street’s Historical Advisors

On Freedom, Bondage and Rape

Mercy Street’s Co-Creator and Executive Producer Lisa Q. Wolfinger details her team’s decision to create three distinct African American characters in an effort to capture the complexity of the African American experience during the Civil War. She also shares her team’s choice to not gloss over the misery of Aurelia’s plight.

professor POWELL

: Well, two ways. First of all, as I said early, the myth was true for white men from after the New Deal. And then, after World War II, we had an effort to actually educate millions of servicemen, the G.I. Bill. Now, this actually didn’t say servicemen, but 90 percent of them were men, I think 98 percent. And so you got a chance to go to college, you got a chance to get a loan, you got a chance to be part of the American dream. And the American middle class exploded. But it was racially coded. It was largely for white men. Blacks and women were locked out.

And then, over the 1950s, blacks, women, Latinos, other groups started coming in as well. The reach of education, the reach of some of those programs, through fighting, through civil rights, through struggle. So it wasn’t that America just opened up. It started opening up. We had Brown v. Board of Education, we had sort of a crumbling of Jim Crow, which wasn’t simply about isolating people based on race; it was about isolating people from opportunity. So those opportunities became open or started opening up.

In the late ‘60s, with the election of President Nixon, those opportunities closed. So schools today are as segregated as they were in the 1960s. Elite schools–I teach at Berkeley. We have a very small number of African-American students. And it’s the elite schools in many ways that was the ladder to higher opportunity. And so all across the country we see a retrenchment for blacks, for Latinos, certainly for Native Americans. Asians are mixed. And the country simply is not doing anything about it. In fact, it’s trying very hard not to notice. And we now have racial segregation in schools. We have racial segregation in neighborhoods. And neighborhoods are the hub of opportunity. What neighborhood you live in determines what kind of park you have, if you have someplace to shop for food, where you go to school, is it safe. So the neighborhoods have been vastly retrenching in terms of segregation. And we had redlining. And so this whole mechanism of reproducing inequality is done largely through neighborhoods. There’s a saying that says in India they have the caste system, in England they have class. In the United States, they have zoning. And so when we look at what happened with the housing crisis, it was unevenly distributed, largely because of the segregated patterns throughout the neighborhoods.


Members of the US Army Medical Corps assigned to Camp Stewart (later Fort Stewart), Hinesville, GA and Hunter Army Air Field, Savannah, GA. These soldiers were trained and brought in for the exclusive care of black troops, including the all-black 477th Anti-Aircraft Battalion. During World War 2, everything in the Army was segregated–even the blood supply.

In 1941, Dr. Charles Drew, first African American graduate of Columbia University and inventor of blood banks, spearheaded a blood bank effort for the American Red Cross. He had already successfully set up a program in the UK called “Blood For Britain.” Now he was asked to work on developing a blood bank to be used for U.S. military personnel.

But not long into his tenure there, Drew became frustrated with the military’s request for segregating the blood donated by African Americans. At first, the military did not want to use blood from African Americans, but they later said it could only be used for black soldiers. Drew was outraged by this racist policy, and resigned his post after only a few months.

In 1944, Dr. Drew was honored by the NAACP with the Springarn Medal for his outstanding accomplishments in the collection and distribution of blood plasma.

It was not until 1950 that the Red Cross stopped requiring the segregation of blood from African American donors. And it was not until the late 1960s and early 1970s that southern states Arkansas and Louisiana overturned similar requirements, making desegregation of blood a long forgotten Civil Rights struggle to remember.

(photos from our private collection–from an estate in Hinesville, GA)
Charles Sims of The Deacons for Defense holding Ku Klux Klan clothing. On July 10, 1964, a group of men in Jonesboro, Louisiana led by Earnest Chilly Willy Thomas and Frederick Douglas Kirkpatrick founded the group known as The Deacons for Defense and Justice to protect members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) against Ku Klux Klan violence. Most of the Deacons were veterans of World War II and the Korean War. The Jonesboro chapter organized its first affiliate chapter in nearby Bogalusa, Louisiana led by Charles Sims, A.Z. Young and Robert Hicks. Eventually they organized a third chapter in Louisiana. The Deacons tense confrontation with the Klan in Bogalusa was crucial in forcing the federal government to intervene on behalf of the local African American community. The national attention they garnered also persuaded state and national officials to initiate efforts to neutralize the Klan in that area of the Deep South. #knowthyself#lovethyself#africanpride #africa#problack#blackart#blacklove #blackisbeautiful#blackexcellence #blackwomen#blackmen#blackkings #blackqueens#blackunity#blackhistory #hotep#ase#sheeple#wakeup#riseup #africa#africanlive#afroncentric#kemet #blackgenocide#mentalslavery #blackconsciousness by king_god_i_am

Rain in a Dry Land: How do you measure the distance from an African village to an American city? What does it mean to be a refugee in today’s “global village”? RAIN IN A DRY LAND provides eye-opening answers as it chronicles the fortunes of two Somali Bantu families, transported by relief agencies from years of civil war and refugee life to Springfield, Massachusetts and Atlanta, Georgia. As the newcomers confront racism, poverty and 21st-century culture shock, the film captures their efforts to survive in America and create a safe haven for their war-torn families. Their poetry, humor and amazing resilience show us our own world through new eyes.


Born in 1918 in the little town of White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, Johnson was a research mathematician, who by her own admission, was simply fascinated by numbers. Fascinated by numbers and smart to boot, for by the time she was 10 years old, she was a high school freshman–a truly amazing feat in an era when school for African-Americans normally stopped at eighth grade for those could indulge in that luxury.

In 1953, after years as a teacher and later as a stay-at-home mom, she began working for NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or NACA. The NACA had taken the unusual step of hiring women for the tedious and precise work of measuring and calculating the results of wind tunnel tests in 1935. In a time before the electronic computers we know today, these women had the job title of “computer.” During World War II, the NACA expanded this effort to include African-American women. The NACA was so pleased with the results that, unlike many organizations, they kept the women computers at work after the war. By 1953 the growing demands of early space research meant there were openings for African-American computers at Langley Research Center’s Guidance and Navigation Department – and Katherine Johnson found the perfect place to put her extraordinary mathematical skills to work.

As a computer, she calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard, the first American in space. Even after #NASA began using electronic computers, John Glenn requested that she personally recheck the calculations made by the new electronic computers before his flight aboard Friendship 7 – the mission on which he became the first American to orbit the Earth. She continued to work at NASA until 1986 combining her math talent with electronic computer skills. Her calculations proved as critical to the success of the #Apollo Moon landing program and the start of the #Space Shuttle program, as they did to those first steps on the country’s journey into space.

Coincidentally (or maybe not) this #FemaleCoder was born onAugust 26: #WomensEqualityDay.

#KatherineJohnson #blackhistorymonth #blacksuperheroes #NASA

Presidential Contenders Fight For Minority Voters In SC

The fight for black voters turned into a tug-of-war over President Barack Obama’s legacy Friday as Democratic presidential hopefuls looked for an edge in South Carolina. Republicans, meanwhile, crisscrossed the state in search of a path out of Donald Trump’s long shadow. Hillary Clinton stepped up her hammering of rival Bernie Sanders for what she said are his false claims on Obama’s legacy. Prominent black leaders echoed the theme — an effort to use the first African-American president as a wedge between Sanders and black voters.

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Presidential contenders fight for minority voters in South Carolina

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Presidential contenders fight for minority voters in South Carolina

The fight for black voters turned into a tug-of-war over President Obama’s legacy Friday as Democratic presidential hopefuls looked for an edge in South Carolina. Hillary Clinton stepped up her hammering of rival Bernie Sanders for what she said are his false claims on Obama’s legacy. Prominent black leaders echoed the theme — an effort to use the first African-American president as a wedge between Sanders and black voters. A Democrat cannot win the nomination, much less the White House, without significant backing and enthusiasm from black communities.

He has called the president weak, a disappointment…He does not support, the way I do, building on the progress the president has made.

Clinton on Sanders at a town hall event Friday

Republicans, meanwhile, crisscrossed the state in search of a path out of Donald Trump’s long shadow. South Carolina is another chance to emerge as the viable alternative to the billionaire reality-TV star who snatched the race away from the GOP establishment. Although Trump appears to have a solid lead in the polls in the state, the rest of the field is hoping to peel off support from the large and influential evangelical community. As his rivals hustled through rare snowfall Friday, Trump showed he won’t make it easy. He was able to steal the spotlight with a Twitter threat to sue his closest competitor.

If @TedCruz doesn’t clean up his act, stop cheating, & doing negative ads, I have standing to sue him for not being a natural born citizen.

Trump on Twitter

While you are on your quest to #makeamericagreatagain recognize the efforts of this man! #sayhisname #CrispusAttucks was the first casualty of the Boston massacre, in Boston, Massachusetts,and is widely considered to be the first American casualty in the American Revolutionary War. Aside from the event of his death, along with Samuel Gray and James Caldwell, little is known for certain about Attucks. He may have been an African American slave or freeman, merchant seaman and dockworker of Wampanoag and Africandescent. His father was an African-born slave and his mother a Native American. #blackhistorymonth #knowyourstory #relyheavilyonyourancestorsforinspiration #staceydashgonlearntoday

The United States War Department issued General Order Number 143 on May 22, 1863, establishing a “Bureau of Colored Troops” to facilitate the recruitment of African-American soldiers to fight for the Union Army. Regiments, including infantry, cavalry, light artillery, and heavy artillery units, were recruited from all states of the Union and became known as the United States Colored Troops (USCT). Approximately 175 regiments of over 178,000 free blacks and freed slaves served during the last two years of the war, and bolstered the Union war effort at a critical time. By war’s end, the USCT were approximately a tenth of all Union troops. There were 2,751 USCT combat casualties during the war, and 68,178 losses from all causes.

In total, North Carolina had 5,035 USCT participants. Around 3000 were mustered in from around the Plymouth area. The Battle of Plymouth included detachments from the following USCT regiments:

  • 10th US Colored Infantry- A detachment at Plymouth, N. C., November 26, 1863, to April 20, 1864, participated in the siege of Plymouth April 17-20, 1864, and surrender April 20, 1864.
  • 37th US Colored Infantry- (re-designated from NORTH CAROLINA VOLUNTEERS- 3rd REGIMENT INFANTRY (AFRICAN DESCENT))- attached to Union Organized at Norfolk, Va., January 30, 1864 and attached to District of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Va., Dept. of Virginia and North Carolina, to February, 1864- at this point the name was changed to the 37th US Colored Infantry.
  • 2nd US Colored Cavalry- Organized at Fort Monroe, Va., December 22, 1863. It was attached to Fort Monroe, Va., Dept. of Virginia and North Carolina, to April, 1864. Reconnaissance duty from Portsmouth to the Blackwater (Plymouth area) April 13-15, 1864.

Prior to the War, Plymouth had strong Union ties with economic reasons for keeping them intact, including the town’s prominence as a port, and the ready access to export markets it provided. Washington County was truly a place where fathers and sons and brothers took sides against one another. In addition to the USCT presence, there were also numerous “Buffalo” soldiers with local origins. The “Buffaloes” were Southern Unionists who joined the volunteer regiments of the Federal army and took up arms against their “homeland”. There were various reasons for doing this, including strong beliefs in preserving the Republic, economic (preserving wealth), and opposition to slavery.

The Port o’ Plymouth Museum and Living History Weekend are unique in that they portray all sides of the conflict, and accurately present both the local sentiments of the time and the practical and economic factors and consequences the conflict had on the area, both then and now. Living History Weekend is fortunate to have African-American re-enactors who participate in the event on a regular basis, and the Museum strives to collect and preserve documents and images relating to the USCT and their role in local events for display and research purposes.

Soccer-African confederation backs Salman for FIFA job

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Soccer-African confederation backs Salman for FIFA job

“CAF will give full support to Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa towards his candidacy for the FIFA presidency,” vice-president Suketu Patel told reporters before declining to answer questions. The decision was a big blow for South African candidate Tokyo Sexwale who will remain in the race despite having come under pressure to withdraw. Salman already has the backing of his own Asian confederation while Infantino, general secretary of UEFA, has the support of his European organisation along with the 10-member South American confederation CONMEBOL.

“I am deeply honoured to have earned the trust of many of our African friends at this crucial stage of the campaign effort,” Salman said in a statement. The two endorsements only mean there is a strong groundswell in favour of my candidacy.

No. I was a man of war at one stage and I was in prison. I had been betrayed during war. I saw men die and I was betrayed like Mandela. This is all about football.

friend of the late South Africa President Nelson Mandela

Doris “Dorie” Miller (October 12, 1919 – November 24, 1943) was a cook in the United States Navy noted for his bravery during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He was the first African American to be awarded the Navy Cross, the third highest honor awarded by the U.S. Navy at the time, after the Medal of Honor and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. The citation accompanying the medal reads:

For distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard for his own personal safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. While at the side of his Captain on the bridge, Miller, despite enemy strafing and bombing and in the face of a serious fire, assisted in moving his Captain, who had been mortally wounded, to a place of greater safety, and later manned and operated a machine gun directed at enemy Japanese attacking aircraft until ordered to leave the bridge.

Nearly two years after Pearl Harbor, he was killed in action when the USS Liscome Bay was sunk by a Japanese submarine during the Battle of Makin. [x]

“Breaking a tradition of 167 years, the U.S. Marine Corps started enlisting Negroes on June 1, 1942. The first class of 1,200 Negro volunteers began their training 3 months later as members of the 51st Composite Defense Battalion at Montford Point, a section of the 200-square-mile Marine Base, Camp Lejeune, at New River, NC. The first Negro to enlist was Howard P. Perry, shown here.” [x]