Black LandImperial Ethiopianism and African America

Black LandImperial Ethiopianism and African America

Nadia Nurhussein

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9780691190969

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Abstract

This is the first book to explore how African American writing and art engaged with visions of Ethiopia during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As the only African nation, with the exception of Liberia, to remain independent during the colonization of the continent, Ethiopia has long held significance for and captivated the imaginations of African Americans. The book delves into nineteenth- and twentieth-century African American artistic and journalistic depictions of Ethiopia, illuminating the increasing tensions and ironies behind cultural celebrations of an African country asserting itself as an imperial power. It navigates texts by Walt Whitman, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Pauline Hopkins, Harry Dean, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, George Schuyler, and others, alongside images and performances that show the intersection of African America with Ethiopia during historic political shifts. From a description of a notorious 1920 Star Order of Ethiopia flag-burning demonstration in Chicago to a discussion of the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie as Time magazine's Man of the Year for 1935, the book illuminates the growing complications that modern Ethiopia posed for American writers and activists. American media coverage of the African nation exposed a clear contrast between the Pan-African ideal and the modern reality of Ethiopia as an antidemocratic imperialist state: Did Ethiopia represent the black nation of the future, or one of an inert and static past? Revising current understandings of black transnationalism, the book presents a well-rounded exploration of an era when Ethiopia's presence in African American culture was at its height.