Brothers and Strangers

Black Zion, Black Slavery, 1914–1940

Brothers and Strangers

Book Pages: 456 Illustrations: 12 b&w photos Published: February 2004

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, African Studies, History > U.S. History

Unprecedented in scope and detail, Brothers and Strangers is a vivid history of how the mythic Africa of the black American imagination ran into the realities of Africa the place. In the 1920s, Marcus Garvey—convinced that freedom from oppression was not possible for blacks in the Americas—led the last great African American emigrationist movement. His U.S.-based Universal Negro Improvement Association worked with the Liberian government to create a homeland for African Americans. Ibrahim Sundiata explores the paradox at the core of this project: Liberia, the chosen destination, was itself racked by class and ethnic divisions and—like other nations in colonial Africa—marred by labor abuse.

In an account based on extensive archival research, including work in the Liberian National Archives, Sundiata explains how Garvey’s plan collapsed when faced with opposition from the Liberian elite, opposition that belied his vision of a unified Black World. In 1930 the League of Nations investigated labor conditions and, damningly, the United States, land of lynching and Jim Crow, accused Liberia of promoting “conditions analogous to slavery.” Subsequently various plans were put forward for a League Mandate or an American administration to put down slavery and “modernize” the country. Threatened with a loss of its independence, the Liberian government turned to its “brothers beyond the sea” for support. A varied group of white and black anti-imperialists, among them W. E. B. Du Bois, took up the country’s cause. In revealing the struggle of conscience that bedeviled many in the black world in the past, Sundiata casts light on a human rights predicament which, he points out, continues in twenty-first-century African nations as disparate as Sudan, Mauritania, and the Ivory Coast.


“An exhaustive study of the Pan-African aspects of Liberia’s history from 1914 to 1940. . . . A prodigious effort. . . . This book should become a standard reference for an important period in Liberia’s Pan-African history.” — Tony Martin, Journal of African American History

"Brothers and Strangers is a provocative and highly nuanced book that deals with the response of people in the West, especially those in the African-American community, to the accusations of governmental malfeasance and labor abuse leveled against Liberia in the 1920s and 1930s." — John C. Yoder, International Journal of African Historical Studies

"Brothers and Strangers is an illuminating, politically charged. . . history of ethnic and class conflict in Liberia." — Minkah Makalani , Journal of Colonialism & Colonial History

"Brothers and Strangers thoughtfully engages the usefulness of diaspora as a theoretical template for deciphering the histories and interests of African peoples long separated by oceans and time." — Claude A. Clegg III , Journal of American History

"A thoughtful history. . . . It is an honest and frank discussion about the role of race, ethnicity and class in the Pan-African narrative. Its comprehensiveness, its attention to detail, and its clarity of thought make this work a substantial contribution to African, African American, and Atlantic history." — Lester P. Lee, The Americas

"Ibrahim Sundiata has written a bold and important history, one that should take a prominent place on the shelves of everyone interested in African, African American, and African diaspora studies." — Vincent Brown , Labor History

"Sundiata has written an important history. It is an honest and frank discussion about the role of race, ethnicity and class in the Pan-African narrative. Its comprehensiveness, its attention to detail and its clarity of thought make this work a substantial contribution to African, African American and Atlantic history." — Lester P. Lee Jr. , History

"Writing with the command of a scholar deeply versed in the topics at hand, Sundiata provides a rich and thoughtful assessment of Liberia, black America, and the relationship between these transatlantic communities during a quarter century of contestations over charges of slavery, struggles over black rule, and the nature of transatlantic black linkages.What makes Sundiata’s book such worthwhile reading is that he tackles the topics with incisive interpretation and analysis. The book is thus a powerful commentary on the state of relations among Africans and the diaspora." — James H. Meriwether , African Affairs

“This much needed and long awaited book is a godsend not only for its courageous handling of its controversial subject but also for the more general information that it presents in the field of Liberian history. It is indispensable work for anyone professing an interest in Black Atlantic studies.” — Wilson Jeremiah Moses, editor of Liberian Dreams: Back-to-Africa Narratives from the 1850s


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Price: $30.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ibrahim Sundiata is Spector Professor of History and African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University. He is the author, most recently, of From Slaving to Neoslavery: The Bight of Biafra and Fernando Po in the Era of Abolition, 1827–1930.
Click here to visit Professor Sundiata’s website.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustration ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

1. Confronting the Motherland 11

2. The Black Zion 48

3. Abuse 79

4. Investigation of an Investigation 97

5. Dollar Diplomacy 140

6. A New Deal for Liberia 170

7. Enterprise in Black and White 211

8. The Literary Mirror 229

9. The "Native Problem" 252

10. Fascism and New Zions 286

11. Postscript: Africa and Human Rights 325

Notes 341

Select Bibliography 407

Index 429

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3247-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3233-6
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