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Congo Love Song: African American Culture and the Crisis of the Colonial State

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In his 1903 hit "Congo Love Song," James Weldon Johnson recounts a sweet if seemingly generic romance between two young Africans. While the song's title may appear consistent with that narrative, it also invokes the site of King Leopold II of Belgium's brutal colonial regime at a time when African Americans were playing a central role in a growing Congo reform movement. In an era when popular vaudeville music frequently trafficked in racist language and imagery, "Congo Love Song" emerges as one example of the many ways that African American activists, intellectuals, and artists called attention to colonialism in Africa.

In this book, Ira Dworkin examines black Americans' long cultural and political engagement with the Congo and its people. Through studies of George Washington Williams, Booker T. Washington, Pauline Hopkins, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, and other figures, he brings to light a long-standing relationship that challenges familiar presumptions about African American commitments to Africa. Dworkin offers compelling new ways to understand how African American involvement in the Congo has helped shape anticolonialism, black aesthetics, and modern black nationalism.

ISBN-13: 9781469632711

Media Type: Paperback(New Edition)

Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press

Publication Date: 06-12-2017

Pages: 472

Product Dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Series: The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture

Ira Dworkin is assistant professor of English at Texas A&M University.

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From the Publisher

In this clearly argued and impressively researched book, Ira Dworkin offers an interdisciplinary look at how the colonialized Congo became a site of African American anti-imperialist protest during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. An important and original study.—Bill Mullen, Purdue University

Insightful and authoritative,Congo Love Song is sure to reshape how we think about Black internationalism and African American engagement with Africa. A deeply researched and revelatory work.—Alex Lubin, author of Geographies of Liberation

This prodigiously researched, magisterial work surveys the depth and extent of African American engagements with the Congo through activism, literature, visual art, and material culture, all crucially framed by the era of colonialism. Shedding new light on such figures as George Washington Williams, Pauline Hopkins, William Sheppard, and Malcolm X, Congo Love Song shows that global routes of anticolonial struggle shaped African Americans' identifications with Africa.—Kevin K. Gaines, Cornell University