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Trevor Joy Sangrey: “’Put One More “S” in the USA’: Pamphlet Literature and the Productive Fiction of the Black Nation Thesis”
May 10, 2012 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm | Stevenson Fireside Lounge
In 1928 the Communist Party developed an unconventional and intriguing proposal that black people in the Black Belt of the Southern United States were an unrecognized national group and should have rights to self-determination, a move later called the “Black Nation Thesis.” Written in Moscow, the Black Nation Thesis was forged in the US through direct action campaigns for the Scottsboro Nine, local organizing around unemployment, and an extensive production of pamphlets.
This paper focuses on pamphlets produced between 1932 and 1935, especially The American Negro, The Position of Negro Women, and The Negroes in a Soviet America, looking at the pamphlets as a literature of dissent that offers a strong critique of Jim Crow, Chain Gangs, Lynch Law, and the economic and cultural oppression of black people. Alongside a critical analysis of the US, the pamphlet develops a fictional a concept of a “Soviet America” in the Black Belt, offering a new vision of radical freedom for black Southerners and enabling new conversations about race and class.
Tracing a different history of black radicalism in small press pamphlet literature, this paper looks at a specific moment of dissident print culture, whcih was spectacular, imaginative, and importantly pedagogical. Probing how radical visions grow and spread, my research on 1930s CPUSA pamphlets reveals how pamphlets offer a place for internal critical thinking and stimulate movement participants to generate substantive critique of the US while also developing their own visions for a radical future.
Trevor Joy Sangrey is a PhD candidate working in history, education, american studies, race and ethnicity studies, and gender studies, with a focus on social movements. Trevor also teaches and has published in the interdisciplinary field of Transgender Studies.