Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom

Keisha N. Blain. Univ. of Pennsylvania, $34.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-8122-4988-0
Blain, assistant professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, illuminates an oft-ignored period of black nationalist and internationalist activism in the U.S.: the Great Depression, World War II, and early Cold War. Her engrossing study shows that much of this activism was led by African-American and Afro-Caribbean women. As racism intensified the sufferings of black Americans during the Depression, people of color in Africa and the Caribbean were increasingly agitated by British imperial rule; this circumstance encouraged female activists who had participated in Marcus Garvey’s movement to see the task of fighting white supremacy as one that united people of African descent across physical and political boundaries. Blain bolsters the roll of well-known black internationalists with less-familiar figures such as Chicago “street scholar” Mittie Maude Lena Gordon, who urged black Americans to emigrate to West Africa; Josephine Moody, who argued that black freedom could come only from the global overthrow of white power and urged African-Americans to “set the world on fire”; and Ethel Collins, who called on women to resist patriarchy within the black-nationalist movement. Adding essential chapters to the story of this movement, Blain expands current understanding of the central roles played by female activists at home and overseas. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/11/2017
Release date: 02/01/2018
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