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.

PHOTO 2024 02 01 07 10 14

For Langston Hughes on His 123 Birthday

Speech given on February 1, 2024 in Havana, Cuba In 1927 Langston Hughes walked into a Cuba amid an emerging community of artists, intellectuals, and radicals.  He saw a “sunrise in a new land [– a day – in his words]sic – full of brownskin surprises, and hitherto unknown contacts in a world of color.”  … Continued

PALESTINE WEEK 1920 x 1080 px 2

Palestine Week 2024

January 18, 2024 – January 25, 2024 In keeping with our ongoing mission of uplifting racial and cultural connections, Busboys and Poets is hosting Palestine Week (January 18 through January 25, 2024). This week-long series of events will offer a diverse range of programming featuring Palestinian food, music, dance, poetry, discussions, and other enriching events. … Continued

IMG 9625

Celebrate Poetry Month with Busboys and Poets

We celebrate poetry every day in our spaces. From the art, to the books, to our Tribe (several who are poets!), poetry surrounds us and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Whether it’s an Open Mic Night or just grabbing a few books of poetry to read, there’s no wrong way to celebrate with … Continued

SPPC Header11

The Ward 8 World’s Greatest Sweet Potato Pie Contest

The Ward 8 World’s Greatest Sweet Potato Pie Contest at Busboys and Poets Anacostia encourages Ward 8 residents to share their amazing baking skills and tasty treats with the community and Busboys and Poets tribe. Each entrant will receive a $50 Busboys and Poets Giftcard 10 Semi-finalists will receive a $100 Cash Prize  5 Finalists will receive a $250 Cash Prize The grand prize winner will receive a $1000 cash prize and … Continued