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Lisa Brock and Otis Cunningham

Lisa Brock
Academic Director
Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College

Lisa Brock is editing a forthcoming issue of SOULS: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society: Call for Papers - [Black] Cuban Revolutionaries Today. Due by May 1, 2019. To submit to this special issue:  To talk over ideas, contact; general questions please contact

Lisa Brock has written numerous articles and a book, Between Race and Empire : African-Americans and Cubans Before the Cuban Revolution 1998.  Check out the reviews listed below.

In 1999, Lisa Brock wrote Reflections on Cuba: History, Memory, Race, and Solidarity, an important article which goes to the heart of many issues surrounding any real discussion of race and Cuba. That same year, she also wrote a well thought out response to an article by Sidney Brinkley of Black Light entitled "Racism in Cuba and the Failure of the American Left."

With her husband Otis Cunningham, she is also the author in 1991 of an important critical article, Race and the Cuban Revolution: A Critique of Carlos Moore's "Castro, the Blacks, and Africa".

Back to the Future: African-Americans and Cuba in the Time(s) of Race  12/2/2011 Contributions in Black Studies: published in 1994, by Lisa Brock

Between Race and Empire:
1. Description
2.  Table of Contents

Review by Lori Roberson, Emerge

Review by Eugene Holley, JR. in Hispanic

Review by Mark Grober, Brigham Young University  


Black Cuban Revolutionaries, Socialism, and the Afterlife of Slavery  6/30/2020 Souls: "The theme of this Issue emerged along three critical tracks. Track one honors the twenty years that Souls has been in publication. Founded by the late radical historian Dr. Manning Marable in 1999 at Columbia University, its first issue was on Harlem, and its second, was on Cuba. This one-two punch was no coincidence. In Volume One, Issue Number Two, entitled Race and Revolution in Cuba: AfricanAmerican Perspectives, Marable begins his introduction with this: “The historic Abyssinia Baptist Church of Harlem was packed to overflowing on Sunday night, October 22, 1995. … Reverend Calvin Butts welcomed his audience of 1,300 people and described Abyssinians guest of honor as ‘one of the great leaders in the world.” That leader was Fidel Castro. This was not Fidel’s first trip to New York, nor his second. His most renown visit occurred in September of 1960 to attend the 15th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. According to most reports, Fidel and his eighty strong delegation felt snubbed at a midtown Manhattan hotel and so they took up residence at the Hotel Theresa in Harlem. While numerous international leaders traveled uptown to visit the revolutionaries, the most memorable meeting for those in Harlem was the one between Fidel Castro and Malcolm X on September 19, 1960."

Author’s Research Documents Capitalism Of Slavery In Charleston  11/29/2017 Charleston Chronicle: "Dr. Lisa Brock, Academic Director of the Arcus Center of Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College where she has worked to infuse social justice into Liberal Arts Education, recently concluded a two-month stay in Charleston during which she participated in the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture’s Race And Social Justice Initiative. While in Charleston she conducted research for her new book and documented the information as part of the Race and Social Justice Initiative. Before leaving Charleston she moderated a “research-in-progress” gathering at the Avery Center on November 15. About 25 participants, who included scholars, activists and historians attended the event where Brock outlined some of the information she collected."

Back to the Future: African-Americans and Cuba in the Time(s) of Race  12/2/2011 Contributions in Black Studies: published in 1994, by Lisa Brock

Black in Two Americas  8/26/2006 WBEZ: "Cuban President Fidel Castro’s illness and the subsequent prospect of a post-Castro Cuba have reinvigorated the issue of U.S.-Cuba relations in the public arena. Lisa Brock, professor of African history and Diaspora studies at Columbia College Chicago, has been researching and writing on African-American and Cuban relations since the early 1990s. Her book, Between Race and Empire: African-Americans and Cubans Before the Cuban Revolution, explores historical ties between the Black freedom struggle in the U.S. and revolutionary movements among Afro-Cubans."

Response to Sidney Brinkley's article entitled "Racism in Cuba and the Failure of the American Left."  12/1/1999 AfroCubaWeb: By Lisa Brock

Racism In Cuba And The Failure Of The American Left  10/18/1999 Black World Today: See answer by Lisa Brock, Response to Sidney Brinkley's article".

Not Yo' Mama's Travel Course:
Genius, Contradiction and the Future of History in South Africa
Wednesday, May 5, 2010...6:00pm, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 East Washington, 1st Floor West Room, Chicago, IL

In June of 2009, 12 students and three professors from Columbia College Chicago engaged in a five-week summer/travel course entitled: The Future of History: Memory in Post Apartheid South Africa. From standing in Mandela's cell with Mandela's co-prisoner, Ahmed Kathrada, to being told by the nation's chief archivist that "contestation is the oxygen of memory-work" to hearing poetry by South Africa 's National Poet Laureate Willie Kgogitsile, the course was unlike any other, encountering genius at every step along the way! Still, there were contradictions both in South Africa (racism and sexism persist) and the ways students were received by associates upon their return: "Were you on safari?" "How did the 'natives' treat you?" "Did you go to 'help?'" Dr. Lisa Brock  will talk about this course and its pedagogical and political implications for educational "tourism" and study abroad courses.

  Free and Open to the Public!

Lisa Brock is chairperson of the Humanities, History, and Social Sciences Department and associate professor of African history and Diaspora Studies at Columbia College Chicago. Since the early 1990s, Brock has joined a host of other intellectuals and scholars who focus on Africa, the "Black Atlantic" and African Diaspora Studies.  Her book, Between Race and Empire: African-Americans and Cubans Before the Cuban Revolution, was published in 1998 and she is working on a new book entitled Black in Two Americas : Comparative Identity, History and Struggle in Cuba and in the United States . She was, however,  trained as a Southern African historian and continues to write about and teach South African history. She was an anti-apartheid activist and is founder of the Chicago Anti-Apartheid Movement Collection at Columbia College Chicago. She is intrigued by the future of history.  

From her page at Colombia College:top

Lisa Brock,
Liberal Education Chairperson
Ph.D., History

Lisa Brock, Ph.D. is a professor of African history and Diaspora studies at Columbia College Chicago. Her articles on South Africa, Mozambique, African-Americans, Cuba and Blacks in the Diaspora have appeared in such journals as Cuban Studies, Contributions in Black Studies, Issue: A Journal of Opinion, Souls, Peace Review, and Temas: Cultura, Ideologicía, Sociedad and in book collections such as Africa’s Media Image. Her book,  Between Race and Empire: African-Americans and Cubans Before the Cuban Revolution (Temple University Press), was published in 1998 and her writings are regularly a part of the website: AfroCubaweb. She has served on the planning committees of the African Studies Association, given papers at the Latin American Studies Association, American Historical Association, the National Association of Black Journalist (and many others) and is on the Editorial Collective of the Radical History Review. She sees herself as operating in an interdisciplinary arena and has given lectures and served as visiting professor at numerous institutions such as the University of New Mexico, Clemson, Columbia University and many many others.

Since the early 1990s, Brock has been researching and writing on African-American and Cuban relations. She has joined a host of other intellectuals and scholars, who while trained in African, African-American, Caribbean or Latin-American areas, has shifted their focus into the broader and more internationalists "Black Atlantic" or African Diaspora Studies. This field is exploding and Brock sees herself as a part of this movement. She speaks often on her work and is working now on a second book entitled: Black in Two Americas: Comparative Identity, History and Struggle in Cuba and in the United States. As an historian and activist, Brock views history as a way to enter contemporary discussions.


Lisa Brock interviewed on BET, Lead Story, Sunday, May 26, 2002 at 10am Central Time, 11 AM Eastern Time.

See Thanks to BET for their link to our site:

This Sunday on "Lead Story" with guest host Amy Holmes:
  • The impact of the U.S. embargo on Afro-Cubans and their relationship with African Americans, the United States and other Cubans. For more information, visit

Between Race and Empire

African-Americans and Cubans Before the Cuban Revolutiontop

Edited by Lisa Brock and Digna Castañeda Fuertes

The relationship between the two peoples of color, their similar experiences with slavery and reaching for political power, and their parallel race consciousness

For many black Americans, the prominence and success of black Cubans in early efforts for independence and abolition highlighted a sense of racial identity and pride, while after U.S. intervention the suppression of AfroCuban aspirations created a strong interest among African-Americans concerning Cuban affairs. This collection, edited by a black Cuban and a black American, traces the relations between Cubans and African-Americans from the abolitionist era to the Cuban Revolution of 1959.

The eleven essays gathered here, written by scholars from both countries, heighten our appreciation of African Americans as international actors and challenges the notion that Cubans had little or no race consciousness. This is the first study of the world capitalist system to track the international consciousness of working peoples, peoples of color, and women. With a focus on two sets of peoples not in state power, Between Race and Empire expands our understanding of "history from below," and reflects current trends in PanAfricanist and African Diaspora studies by  tracing a little-studied linkage between two peoples of African descent.

Lisa Brock is Associate Professor of African History and Diaspora Studies, Department of Liberal Arts, School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Digna Castañeda Fuertes is Senior Professor of Caribbean History and Senior Advisor for graduate diplomas in History, University of Havana, Cuba.


256 PP


Click for pricing and to order ==>




Introduction: Between Race and Empire

  1. Minerva: A Magazine for Women (and Men) of Color

  3. Telling Silences and Making Community: Afro-Cubans and African-Americans in Ybor City and Tampa, 1899-1915

  5. The African-American Press and United States Involvement in Cuba, 1902-1912

  7. Encounters in the African Atlantic World: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cuba

  9. Cuba's Roaring Twenties: Race Consciousness and the Column "Ideales de una Raza"

  11. Marcus Garvey in Cuba: Urrutia, Cubans, and Black Nationalism

  13. Nicolas Guillen and Langston Hughes: Convergences and Divergences

  15. Not Just Black: African-Americans, Cubans, and Baseball

  17. Cuban Social Poetry and the Struggle against Two Racisms

  19. CuBop! Afro-Cuban Music and Mid-Twentieth-Century American Culture

  21. The African-American Press Greets the Cuban Revolution


    About the Editors and Contributors Index

To order click here:

Review by Lori Roberson, Emergetop

Reconnecting Cuban lies
By Lori S. Robinson

Between Race and Empire: African- Americans and Cubans before tbe Cuban Revolution Edited
by Lisa Brock and Digna Castañeda Fuertes (Temple University Press, $22.95)

WE’VE BEEN DUPED. African-Americans have let the dominant power structure brainwash us into thinking that what happens outside the U.S. borders is none of our concern. In the case of some African countries, at least, we saw past the law. But foreign policy in non-African countries? Forget it. Black folks have too much to worry about here, even if the people in question live on an island only 90 miles away.

African-Americans didn’t use to have such a self-absorbed, myopic point of view. Between Race and Empire: African- Americans and Cubans before tbe Cuban Revolution documents that historic, intimate connection. Editors Lisa Brock and Digna Castañeda Fuertes have gathered essays from eight North American and three Cuban scholars which prove that even during slavery and Jim Crow, Black Americans cared about Cuba and vice versa. "Except for Haiti, no New World society received as much attention from Black North Americans in the nineteenth century as did Cuba," writes contributor David Heliwig.

This volume of academic essays, written with accessible language, delves into topics such as religion and protest poetry. Layers of history are peeled back, building an understanding of political and racial dynamics between the darker citizens of the United States and Cuba.

As with any relationship, pre-revoludon Cubans and African-Americans had their trouble spots. In an essay about two Florida cities between 1899 and 1915, contributor Nancy Raquel Mirabal writes:

"Despite the inevitable interactions that took place between the two communities, Afro-Cubans preferred to distance themselves socially and politically from African-Americans." Also at the turn of the century, the U.S.-based African Methodist Episcopal Church attempted to expand to Cuba, but reached English-speaking Caribbean immigrants more effectively than Cuban nationals because of differing expectations, writes Jualynne Dodson. Afro- Cubans expected the church to help them out of poverty and the denomination expected Black Cubans to be self-sufficient and to contribute to the church.

The chapter on segregated baseball, a prime form of recreation when options were few for Africans-Americans, effectively explores the extent of Black North American-Cuban interaction. "The integration of Cuban teams into American Black baseball was thorough. Major Black newspapers reported on Cuban players and their teams as regularly as they did any team of North American Blacks. Havana was often a stop on the Black circuit," write Brock and essay co-author Bijan Bayne.

Afro-Cubans and African-Amencans commonly mingled in artistic contexts. The enduring friendship and mutual artistic support of great poets Nicolas Guillen and Langston Hughes is examined.  Whereas Guillen and Hughes admired each other’s work, the collaborations of jazz musicians transformed their art. Cuban musician Luciano "Chano" Pozo "is generally credited with providing the hands-on training and inspiration that allowed the [Dizzy] Gillespie orchestra to turn a Cuban-influenced jazz style into an organic Afro-Cuban jazz style." Geoffrey Jacques traces how they and other pioneer musicians propelled each other into new sounds.

And several essays address Afro-Cuban and U.S. independent journalism from the 1 800s. "Most clearly pro-Castro among the Black newspapers and magazines were the Baltimore-based Afro-American... the Amsterdam News, and the weekly magazine Jet," writes Van Gosse.

How times change.

When Brock wanted to reprint a 1959 Jet cover image featuring a Cuban woman in this volume, "a Jet staff member telephoned to say that the picture was ‘quite old’ and of a ‘political nature,’ and they would not grant permission to use it."

Hopefully, Jet’s current disassociation from Cuba is not representative of the greater African-American community. Just a few decades ago, African-Americans understood that Cubans, particularly Afro- Cubans, were oppressed by a mutual foe.

Between Race and Empire informs readers about a shared history we should know. Writes Castañeda in the epilogue, "In this historical moment, we hope that this book, by looking into our common past, will help us negotiate a common future."

Review by Eugene Holley, JR. in Hispanic, 10/98top

Between Race and Empire: African-Americans and Cubans
before the Cuban Revolution, edited by Lisa Brock and Digna
Castafleda Fuertes (Philadelphia: Temple University Press
1998). Softcover, 298 pages, $22.95. Nonfiction

For nearly two centuries, African Americans and Cubans have influenced each other in a number of ways, as shown in this collection of eleven essays. Brock writes, "Although racism and empire thrust African-Americans and Cubans into each other’s assigned physical spaces, it was who they were before and after segregation and exploitation that most influenced their cultural relations."

The nineteenth-century African American leader Frederick Douglass called for U.S. blacks to volunteer for Cuba’s war against Spain. Negro American newspapers supported the Afro-Cuban struggle, and the magazine Minerva, published in the 1880s, provided a forum for Cuban women of color.

The most fruitful connections were made through sports, specifically baseball. Brock and co-contributor Bijan Bayne reveal in the essay "Not Just Black: African-Americans, Cubans and Baseball" that the name of the first African American baseball team, in 1885, was the "Cuban Giants," that African Americans and Cuban teams played against each other in the United States and in Cuba, and that American blacks even tried to pass as Cubans.

Just as African Americans asserted themselves in the Harlem Renaissance of the twenties, Cubans, who also looked to Harlem as a Negro mecca, also articulated their African heritage and quest for equality through the written word. Gustavo Urrutia’s forceful column, "Ideales de una Raza/Ideas of a Race," ran in the Havana newspaper Diario de la Marina from the late twenties to the thirties and urged racial pride, as did the like-minded writings of Pldcido, Regino Boti, and Regino Pedroso. Nicol6s Guillén, whose "Motivos de Son/Son Motifs" became a classic of Cuban literature, enjoyed a fruitful friendship with Langston Hughes, who influenced and encouraged his work.

As Geoffrey Jacques outlines in "Cubop! Afro-Cuban Music and Mid-Twentieth-Century American Culture," the Cuban imprint on American musical styles was evident as far back as 1909. This influence is obvious in the mambo dance craze popularized by Pérez-Prado and Machito in the forties. Bandleader Mario Bauz6, percussionist Chano Pozo, and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie fused bebop with Afro-Cuban rhythms.

The contributors to this excellent study have uncovered a rich legacy of two peoples who not only fought racism and imperialism but also interacted in the process.

- Eugene Holley, Jr.

Review by Mark Grober, Brigham Young Universitytop

Political Science

Between Race and Empire: African-Americans and Cubans Before the Cuban Revolution.
Temple Univ. Apr. 1998. c.256p. permanent paper en. by Lisa Brock & Digna Castafieda Fuertes. photogs. index. LC 97-20278. ISBN 1-56639-586-0. $59.95; pap. ISBN 1-56639-587- 9. $22.95.

The 40-year political conflict between the United States and Fidel Castro’s Cuba has camouflaged a history of relationships between the two countries that was significant and important. Part of mat history is the little-known but revealing interactions between the Afro communities of the two countries. That relationship was intellectual as African Americans looked south for support and justification of their ideas; cultural, as Cuban music influenced by the rhythms of Africa had an important role in the evolution of American jazz; and social, as baseball players and other Cubans came to the United States and experienced a racism dissimilar from that in Cuba. These essays mark an Unusual collaboration between American and Cuban scholars and attempt to show a pan-Afro racial kinship that went beyond national borders and centered on common experiences shaped by slavery and prejudice. The book is valuable for American and Latin American academic collections as well as public libraries with Cuban andlor African American patrons. - Mark L. Grover Brigham Young Univ., Provo, UT


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