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Race, Class and Gender: An African Experience in Cuba, Lecture, 4/20/02


Digna Castañeda Fuertes 
University of Habana

Co-editor with Lisa Brock of Between Race and Empire : African - Americans and Cubans Before the Cuban Revolution

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

Race, Class and Gender: An African Experience in Cuba

Lecture by, Professor Digna Castañeda Fuertes University of Habana, Cuba

National Museum of American History, Thursday April 20, 2000

3:00 PM--West Conference Room, 4th Floor--

The African experience in Cuba began with African slavery, which - as in other Caribbean colonies - illuminates out all aspects of the colonial system. Likewise, slavery played a pivotal role in the establishment of an inseparable relationship between race, class and gender.

It is black women then - and their experiences as slaves - who provide the best example of Cuban colonial society. It is they, who bore the ultimate brunt of the colonial slave system; as merchandise, as part of the labor force and as sexual property. Because of this, they, unlike their male partners, tell us the most Cuban history.

The importance of slave women to Cuban history has not been fully recognized and investigated by Cuban, Caribbean or Latin American scholars. Therefore, their remains much work to be done both theoretically and culturally in this field. Most significantly, without the study of slave women, "gender " as a conceptual category will never be fully evolved. Thus, this work is crucial to the very development of gender studies and our understanding of gender, race and class in the construction of both colonial and modern society; the impact of which continues to be realized today.

My work is an attempt to bring together newly collected and hitherto unknown data on the lives of specific slave women and to analyze their lives within and against the context of evolving gender, class and race theories.

Professor Digna Castañeda Fuertes received her Ph.D. from the University of Havana and the Instituto de America Latina. She teaches History of the Caribbean and Cuba at the University of Havana, Cuba. Dr. Castaneda recently co-edited the book Between Race and Empire: African -Americans and Cubans before the Cuban Revolution (Temple University Press, 1998). The book and essays look at the relationship between African Americans and Afro-Cubans from the abolitionist era to the Cuban Revolution of 1959.

Please plan on attending this interesting and thoughtful look at the roles and relationship of slave women in Cuba.

Call 357-3180 or 786-9057 for more information. Sponsored by NMAH, Division of Cultural History and The Center for Latino Initiatives.

L. Stephen Velasquez 
Museum Specialist/Collections Manager, 
Teodoro Vidal Collection Division of Cultural History 
National Museum of American History Rm. 4100 
Smithsonian Institution Washington, DC 20560-0616 

Between Race and Empire : African-Americans and Cubans Before the Cuban Revolutiontop
by Lisa Brock, Digna Castaneda Fuertes (Editor)

List: $22.95 Price: $18.36 
Click here to order ==> 

Between Race and Empire

African-Americans and Cubans Before the Cuban Revolution

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

$59.95 CLOTH
ISBN I-56639-586-0 BROBR

$22..95 paper
ISBN I-56639-587-9 BROBRP

APRIL '98 Price: $18.36     Click 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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