Black Identity: Rhetoric, Ideology, and Nineteenth-Century Black Nationalism

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Sandford Supreme Court decision in further reduced African American rights, as all slaves were deemed to be property, not people. Heightening sectional tensions also saw white New Yorkers turn on the black community as they blamed them for destabilizing the Union. This coalition emerged out of institutions such as the Committee of Thirteen, a group set up to oppose the Fugitive Slave Act; state conventions; and public meetings that sought to defend the rights of black New Yorkers to ride the streetcars.

Pennington refused to get down from segregated streetcars, eventually forcing the desegregation of the streetcars through a New York State Supreme Court case in However, the difficulties of this decade forced a return to the argument for a back-to-Africa approach, and coinciding with the independence of Liberia in , many were willing to give emigration a second chance.

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Chapter seven deviates from chronology to conduct a case study of Seneca Village, which existed from — This chapter sets up Seneca Village as a microcosm of African American experience more generally in New York City, revealing the strategies of land purchase, institution building, and individual contributions to community. The importance of churches and schools as community institutions is examined in detail.

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It is unfortunate that this episode is featured separately because it would have made a nice contribution to the overall narrative by stepping back from the purely political, top-down approach featured in the rest of the book. The strengths of this book are its adherence to its institutional focus, presentation of an exciting new case study of Seneca Village, and attention to the dynamism of African American politics in an age when formal political participation was nearly impossible. Alexander very neatly traces the trajectory of certain individuals as they emerge from their civic roles as pastors, teachers, and newspaper publishers to become newly minted political figures.

The rise and fall of their often overlooked early political groups — the Colored Conventions, the New York Association for the Political Improvement of the People of Color, the American Reform Board of Disenfranchised Commissioners, the National Council of the Colored People — reflects what Alexander argues is the indestructible, but often politically divided, commitment to freedom, justice and equality p. The level of detail given to both the successful and unsuccessful political movements helps to illustrate the challenges these leaders faced from both wider American society and within the black activist community itself.

Alexander also makes excellent use of a variety of interesting sources, and the chapter on Seneca Village was fresh and provided a new focus for the story. This case study gives the reader a sense of the parallel and equal development of culture, society, and politics in black New York. Part of the reason for her title, African or American? By using the rise of the ACS as a moment of clear break between the African and American arguments, Alexander does a disservice to the continued interest in Africa and African heritage that she admits later persisted throughout the period in the non-political realm.


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This demonstrates the weaknesses of the political approach, which precludes what would be of enormous value to this study: incorporating the perspectives of average New Yorkers. If this was truly the case, why did the political leadership constantly have to call for unity and action? Skip to main content. African or American?

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Black Identity in New York City, Book: African or American? Black Identity in New York City, , review no.

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Black Identity: Rhetoric, Ideology, and Nineteenth-Century Black Nationalism

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Problem URL. Describe the connection issue. SearchWorks Catalog Stanford Libraries. Black identity : rhetoric, ideology, and nineteenth-century Black nationalism. Responsibility Dexter B. Physical description xv, p.