Theses Bachelor's

In the Shadow of the White Man's Burden: Black Americans and the Philippines, 1898-1903

Dentler, Jonathan

This thesis first examines the ideological commitments that went into forging the Black Imperial. It explains the forces that gave rise to the plan to use black soldiers in the war and to subsequently settle the islands with the black American population. The second section then turns to the situation in the Philippines to examine in detail why the plan failed. The second section will also argue that despite the nominal failure of the 'Black Imperial' idea to achieve its stated goals, it 'succeeded' in providing an opportunity to enact race and to regulate Victorian domesticity. Finally, this paper will suggest that the failure of the Black Imperial plan was part of a movement within black politics away from racial uplift and toward a more antagonistic anti-racist and anti- imperialist politics. Scholars have often understood this political transformation as the move from Booker T. Washington and the Tuskegee machine toward W.E.B. Du Bois and the NAACP, though this formula has many problems. Nonetheless, by examining print media, political and theoretical writings from black intellectuals, and literature from the time, I hope to show a connection between the involvement of black Americans in the Philippines and a certain drift toward radicalism in black politics that took place early in the twentieth century. Scholarly work has traditionally understood this drift within a national or Atlantic context, ignoring the fact that it occurred against the backdrop of a colonial war in the Pacific in which the notion of 'race' played a central role. The course of black politics during these years was intimately related to Pacific developments and their racial politics.

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B.A., Columbia University
Published Here
May 6, 2011