In this substantial entry into the history of Black radical politics, Keisha N. Blain uncovers the legion of Black women that made waves in the growing Black nationalist and Garveyite movements of the early Twentieth Century. Black nationalism, which promotes the establishment of a Black nation state as the answer to racial oppression, first gained traction with the teachings of Marcus Garvey in the 1920s. Within the ferment of the widely popular Garvey movement, Blain sheds light on the towering woman figures who, despite the patriarchal chauvinism present within Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (and Garvey himself), were able to rise to positions of power within the movement and leverage their influence so other woman could do the same. Most importantly, Blain shows us how these women took the political and mobilization tools they gained during their involvement with the Garveyism to advance the cause of Black liberation long after the decline of Garveyism in the early 1930s.

Rescuing these scarcely known women from obscurity, Blain makes use of a plethora of source materials, census records, documents and first-hand accounts, to reconstruct their lives and seamlessly weave together their stories.There was Mittie Maude Lena Gordon, a Black woman who led a huge back to Africa campaign in Chicago during the 1930s and founded the Peace Movement of Ethiopia. Then there was Celia Jane Allen, the intrepid nationalist organizer and poet who mobilized Black people in Jim Crow era Mississippi dispite being monitored by the FBI. Then there was Adelaide Casely Hayford, the dedicated and outspoken Sierra Leonean who played a substantial role in the Garvey movement in Sierra Leone before breaking away to become a distinguished speaker and advocate of women’s rights in West Africa. All of their activities were connected by what Blain describes as a “proto-feminism” that pushed for equality along gendered lines and predated the Black feminist movements of the 60s and 70s.

Blain’s rich narrative writing takes us with ease through the details of these women’s lives without bogging us down with heavy historical facts. Yet the texts is deeply well-researched. Blain proves once again that Black women and their invaluable contributions have been foundational to the development of Black radical movements.

Our thanks to bookseller Dubian Ade for this review.

Busboys and Poets Book Interview: Mamta Jain Valderrama

Busboys and Poets Book Interview: Mamta Jain Valderrama

Busboys and Poets Books is excited to have social justice author, Mamta Jain Valderrama coming to Busboys 14th & V to discuss her debut novel, A Girl In Traffick, based on true stories of human organ trafficking. In advance of the upcoming event, bookstore supervisor Kenlynn Nelson interviewed Mamta about her writing and thoughts on … Continued

joseph lms green

Split This Rock Poem of the Week: Joseph LMS Green

  Joseph Green is a spoken word artist, educator, and motivational speaker with over 15 years’ experience in youth development. He co-founded poetryN.O.W., a nonprofit providing creative writing programming and curriculum for DC-area youth and schools. While serving as Split This Rock’s Director of Youth Programs for 3 years, he transferred poetryN.O.W’s work into Split This Rock’s care. Joseph has … Continued

holiday

‘Tis the Season for Holiday Gift Cards

Delight a friend, family member, co-worker or maybe even yourself with a gift cards to Busboys and Poets! Our gift cards can be used to purchase food (mmm sweet potato pancakes), drinks (Langston Cooler, anyone?), books and any other items sold at our bookstore. This includes Busboys merch, notebooks, cards and other fun gifts. Send a physical … Continued