The Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 inspired grass roots political activism in black America. To understand how this foreign policy issue became such a pressing domestic concern for black Americans, this essay analyzes an influential interpretation of the crisis, a pamphlet by J. A. Rogers entitled The Real Facts About Ethiopia. I argue that Rogers's text critiques the nature of race under colonialism by illustrating how state boundaries and racial categories are coordinate, strategic operations of colonial power. Second, I demonstrate how the text contrasts this parochial racial context with an alternative framework in which identity can be performed, a heterogeneous space represented by a characterization of Ethiopia. I contend that this figure of Ethiopia creates a temporal frame for remedying the geographic and historical dispersal of the African Diaspora. At the close of the 1930s, this anticolonial, transnational black identity influenced the tenor and focus of black political culture.
“Copyright © 2007 by Michigan State University. This Article originally appeared in Rhetoric & Public Affairs Vol. 10, Iss. 3, 2007, pages 419-444.
Aric Putnam. "Ethiopia Is Now: J. A. Rogers and the Rhetoric of Black Anticolonialism during the Great Depression." Rhetoric & Public Affairs 10:3 (2007) 419-444. DOI: 10.1353/rap.2008.0023