Campus: CSU Bakersfield -- May 31, 2002
CSU Bakersfield Professor Examines How the Struggle
for African liberation Influenced Black Americans in the mid-20th century
Race, civil rights, anti-colonialism and the Cold War were leading issues
of the 20th century and the topic of "Proudly We Can Be Africans,
Black Americans and Africa, 1935-1961," a book recently published
by California State University, Bakersfield professor James H. Meriwether.
In a transnational historical context, Meriwether examines how the struggles
for African liberation influenced black Americans in the mid-20th century.
Using the black press, personal correspondence and oral histories, Meriwether
looks at how African-American's responses and
attitudes towards Africa's fight for freedom influenced their intellectual,
political and social lives.
Meriwether said that from 1935 to 1961 national and international events
taking place on both sides of the Atlantic positively influenced African-American's
images of their native homeland and cultural roots.
"The theme of this book fundamentally changed black America's views
of Africa," Meriwether said. "Until this point, the dominant
image about Africa that had been fed to African-Americans since the
early 1800's was negative. They were taught that this was a continent
of savages who cooked missionaries in pots. For a group of people who
were struggling to overcome racism and prejudice, this wasn't something
they wanted to associate with. Whereas Africa's liberation - black heroic
men and women struggling against supremacy and defeating it - changed
their view of Africa. It gave them pride."
Meriwether added that not all events surrounding Africa's liberation
positively impacted black America. But in many cases, African-Americans
were incited at home and on the international front and the era saw
black Americans reform their bonds with Africa.
Meriwether is a former Fulbright scholar. He completed his undergraduate
work at Duke University and received his master's and doctorate degrees
in history from the University of California, Los Angeles. He served
in the Peace Corps in Botswana and lectured at the University of Zimbabwe.
He is currently an assistant professor of history at CSUB.
While at Duke, African American history legend John Hope Franklin influenced
Meriwether's interest in the African influence on American history.
"Proudly We can Be Africans" is part of the John Hope Franklin
series in African-American history and culture published by The University
of North Carolina Press. It will be available at the CSUB Runner Bookstore
Meriwether's book is a significant contribution to 20th century American
"Scholarship has been moving towards more of a transnational historical
context," he said. "This book touches on many of the main
themes of the 20th century but allows us to look at American history
in a broader, more international context. This book does that and I
think that's a very important thing."
Contact: Becky Zelinski, 661/664-2138, email@example.com
or Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456, firstname.lastname@example.org