Colored Cosmopolitanism: The Shared Struggle for Freedom in the United States and India

Nico Slate, Author
Nico Slate. Harvard Univ., $39.95 (321 p) ISBN 978-0-674-05967-2
Reviewed on: 02/13/2012
Release date: 01/01/2012
Hardcover - 344 pages - 978-0-674-06296-2
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Slate, Assistant Professor of History at Carnegie Mellon University, details the links between human rights activists in the two countries in this richly-sourced history. From the late 19th to the mid-20th century, Indians and African-Americans found common ground in their fights against colonialism on one side of the world and racism on the other,  creating a "colored cosmopolitanism" that brought together what Indian activist Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya called the "darker races" of the globe in a shared pact to upend oppression. American racism led Indian leaders like Mahatma Gandhi to ponder whether it was worse being an untouchable in India or being black in America. To answer that question and others, Slate wisely lets his subjects speak for themselves, drawing extensively from interviews, oral histories, and archival materials. However, Gandhi's influence on Martin Luther King Jr., the most celebrated of his disciples of non-violence, garners surprisingly few pages here. Instead of travelling down this well-trod path, the author delves deeper into how Gandhi's African-American contemporaries, such as civil rights stalwarts Booker T. Washington and W.E.B DuBois influenced the Indian leader, precipitating a profound reworking of his thinking on both caste and race. Engagingly-written, this sweeping account of these episodes in U.S. and Indian history has the ability to appeal to professional historians as well as general readers. B&W Photos. (Jan.)
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