African or American? Black Identity in New York City, 1784-1861 (A review)
Date accessed: Mon 20 June 2011 3:07:44 BST
In March 2008, candidate Barack Obama made a speech in Philadelphia articulating his own views on race in the politics of the presidential campaign. In it, he stated that ‘at various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough”.’(1) Clearly, issues of political and racial identity for African Americans are still both highly relevant and highly contentious today. This makes Leslie Alexander’s tightly knit narrative of the development of two broad African American political identities an important contribution to the growing historiography. It joins such recent titles such as James Sidbury’s Becoming African in America (2), Patrick Rael’s Black Identity and Black Protest in the Antebellum North (3) and Leslie Harris’s In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863.(4) Alexander describes the purpose of her research as examining the conflict between ‘moral uplift’ and African heritage and emigration in the development of political activism and nascent Black Nationalism in New York City. She uses political activists’ speeches from throughout the period, as well as ongoing newspaper discourses, as her primary way into the politics of the black community.
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tags: identity, african american, new york