03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 19

From to Cross-Fertilization: Afro-Cuban/African American Interaction during the and 1940s

Frank A. Guridy

In 1937, Arthur W. Mitchell, an African American congressman from , Illinois, embarked on a holiday trip to . On his arrival to the island, he received an enthusiastic welcome from leading Afro-Cuban intellectuals and politi- cians. Their fervor was based on their awareness of Mitchell’s significance as the only African American serving in the U.S. Congress at the time. But Mitchell’s otherwise successful visit was tarnished by a familiar encounter with racial discrimination when the congressman, his wife Annie Harris Mitchell, and his Afro-Cuban hosts ran into difficulty obtaining a table for dinner at the Hotel Saratoga in . Word of the incident quickly spread throughout Cuba, generating spirited protests from numer- ous Afro-Cuban organizations on the island. Petitions directed to the called for the hotel owner’s expulsion from the for violating the Cuban and for insulting this “distinguished leader of the colored race.” El caso Mitchell (the Mitchell case), as it became known, highlights the inter- section between local and transnational processes in the making of racial under- standings in Cuban society during the tumultuous period of the 1930s and early 1940s, a time of heightened political mobilization in Cuba and across the African dias- pora.1 This essay situates the Mitchell case and other instances of Afro-Cuban/African American interaction in this period within a longer history of cross-fertilization between and North Americans of African descent. I argue that such

Radical History Review Issue 87 (fall 2003): 19–48 Copyright 2003 by MARHO: The Radical Historians’ Organization, Inc.

19 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 20

20 Radical History Review

exchanges played a crucial role in stimulating a resurgent antidiscrimination move- ment on the island. In subsequent years, transnational networks would continue to invigorate antidiscrimination activism, not only in Cuba but also in some influential African American activist communities, particularly during the Second War. The power of these information circuits led the U.S. government to attempt to manip- ulate the circulation of racial understandings between the two in an effort to neutralize Afro-Cuban activism. By underscoring the dynamic interplay between local and transnational processes in the making of racial understandings in a particu- lar historical moment, this essay illustrates the utility of a transnational approach to the study of the interactions among people of African descent across national bound- aries during the twentieth century.2 Foregrounding the exchanges between Afro-Cubans and African Americans challenges our understanding of the fields of “Cuban,” “Afro-Cuban” and “African American” history. For historians of race in Cuba, this essay underscores how Afro- Cubans viewed the issue of racial inequality not simply as a “Cuban” question but also as an issue pertinent to themselves and African Americans as members of the larger transnational collective called la raza de color (the colored race).3 For African American historiography, an examination of Afro-Cuban/African American interac- tion sheds new light on established topics in the field, such as the emergence of racial uplift ideology in the postemancipation period and the renewed struggle for civil rights during the 1930s and 1940s. In this way, it invites further investigations into the ways interactions between Cubans and North Americans of African descent shaped the making of African American principles of affiliation. To be sure, interac- tions with people of African descent throughout the globe shaped African American self-understandings. However, Cuba’s geographical proximity to the gave the “Negro in Cuba” particular significance and familiarity for North American persons of African descent.4 Scholars have already begun to uncover the multiple ties that linked Afro- Cubans and African Americans. As African American and Afro-Cuban communities expanded and were differentiated by the processes of migration and class stratification during the opening decades of the twentieth century, they came in con- tact with people of African descent from other parts of the . The ground- breaking volume edited by Lisa Brock and Digna Castañeda Fuertes, Between Race and Empire, highlighted some of the connections created by Cubans and North Americans of African descent across national borders and cultural frontiers.5 These points of contact were numerous and involved relationships among people from dif- ferent social classes, which produced a dynamic cross-fertilization of cultures. Such exchanges were embodied in the relationships established by Afro-Cuban and African American baseball players, in the interaction between intellectuals such as Nicolás Guillén and Langston Hughes, and in the collaborations among musicians 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 21

Guridy | From Solidarity to Cross-Fertilization 21

who played in nightclubs and dancehalls in Harlem and Havana. My research con- tributes to this work by highlighting the relationships between a particular group of intellectuals, entrepreneurs, and political activists dedicated to circulating informa- tion about the “Negro,” and their impact on Afro-Cuban conceptions of race. These connections did not just constitute expressions of racial solidarity; rather they made for seminal influences in the ways Cubans and North Americans of African descent came to view themselves both as citizens of their respective countries and as mem- bers of the colored race. While the relationships examined here were undoubtedly shaped by the class and gender positions of their participants, their involvement in the production and dissemination of news and ideas pertinent to the colored race made them influential in black communities in both countries.

Spaces of Congregation and Cross-Fertilization, 1898–1933 The dynamic process of cross-fertilization between Cubans and North Americans of the 1930s and 1940s had its roots in the transnational history of in the Amer- icas. In the nineteenth century, slaves and free persons of color in Cuba and the United States inextricably linked their collective struggles for freedom. Along with , perhaps no other society in the Americas captured African American imagi- nations more than Cuba. In the antebellum period, African American abolitionists included the liberation of slaves in Cuba in their vision of emancipation.6 At the same time, an understanding of the African American experience with slave eman- cipation informed Afro-Cuban struggles for freedom. In the years following the final abolition of slavery on the island in 1886, Afro-Cuban , both women and men, drew on the example of African Americans as part of their own effort to define citizenship against encroaching practices of racial segregation.7 If Afro-Cuban/African American encounters were defined by their parallel struggles for freedom during the era of slavery, in the decades following emancipa- tion, they were transformed by the U.S. intervention into the Cuban struggle for against (1868–98). Since the outbreak of war, African Ameri- can observers of Cuba sympathized with Cuban separatists, in large part because of the prevalence of people of African descent in the Cuban Liberation Army, such as the celebrated general Antonio Maceo.8 As historians have shown, however, African American sympathies with Cuba became more ambivalent after the United States militarily intervened in the conflict. Many African Americans found them- selves caught between the desire to identify with the colored race in Cuba and their own efforts to combat encroaching disfranchisement by serving for the U.S. military in the war. These tensions informed the construction of a racial citizenship that drew on the imperial and masculinist discourses of the age.9 After the conclusion of the war, Cuba’s deepening integration into the United States empire in the profoundly reshaped relationships between Cubans 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 22

22 Radical History Review

and North Americans of African descent. Following the U.S. military occupation of the island and the ’s establishment under U.S. supervision in 1902, Cuba became entrenched in a rapidly expanding network of bodies and ideas migrating to and from the United States. Consequently, African American/Afro-Cuban inter- action accelerated. Afro-Cubans who migrated to the United States in search of opportunities for employment and education provided one point of contact. These migrants often found themselves living alongside African Americans in segregated communities. The black press supplied another point of contact. An increasing num- ber of stories published by journalists who had traveled to the island heightened African American interest in the “Negro in Cuba.” Thus Cuba’s integration into the U.S. Caribbean empire had the unintended effect of expanding the scope of Afro- Cuban/African American interaction.10 The complicated effects of the U.S./Cuban imperial encounter on the interac- tions between Cubans and North Americans of African descent can be seen in the influence of Booker T. in Cuba at the turn of the twentieth century. As scholars have shown, Washington’s reputation as a race leader extended beyond the borders of the United States. Washington’s stature in Cuba was enhanced not only because North Americans disseminated his message in Cuba but also because notions of racial uplift already prevailed among Cubans of African descent, making the Wiz- ard of Tuskegee a celebrated figure among some Cuban blacks and mulattoes.11 Afro-Cubans’ veneration of Booker T. Washington exemplified their admira- tion for the achievements of African Americans in the face of rigidifying practices of white during the early Jim Crow era. To a number of Cuban blacks and mulattoes, el negro americano (the Negro American) epitomized racial advancement in the hierarchical construction of the African . Afro-Cuban observers of the colored race in the United States saw leaders such as Booker T. Washington as model representatives of their race in the most in the world. As an Afro- Cuban writer put it in 1915: “We, like the Negro American, must look for our strength in commerce, the arts, and independence. In my opinion, those are the only sources of prosperity where we can find our progress.”12 Soon after the U.S. intervention in the Cuban war for independence, Wash- ington sought to make his own contribution to the North American imperial project by recruiting Afro-Cubans to study at Tuskegee Institute. His program of “industrial education for Cuban Negroes” brought a number of Cuban students to Tuskegee and Hampton Institute at the turn of the century.13 While this plan worked in tan- dem with the U.S. imperial project in Cuba, institutions such as Tuskegee provided important settings for Afro-Cuban encounters with African Americans, particularly for upwardly mobile Cubans of African descent. Such was the case of José García Inerarity, an Afro-Cuban entrepreneur from the town of Santa Clara, who first met African Americans while he studied at Hampton Institute. His experience at Hamp- 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 23

Guridy | From Solidarity to Cross-Fertilization 23

ton shaped his self-understanding as a member of the colored race. At Hampton, he was also exposed to the ideology of racial improvement, and his efforts to connect with black businessmen in the United States in subsequent years reflect his bour- geois outlook. During the 1930s, he acted as the Cuban correspondent for Claude Barnett’s Associated Negro Press and became a regular contact for African American travelers to Cuba.14 While such relationships were forged in the class-based, gen- dered, and hierarchical world of racial uplift, for García and a number of Cubans of African descent who studied in the United States, black educational institutions such as Tuskegee and Hampton provided concrete settings for cross-fertilization and the development of ties simultaneously reinforcing both national and racial principles of affiliation.15 If black schools functioned as centers of interaction between upwardly mobile Afro-Cubans and African Americans in the United States in the decades after the war of 1898, in Cuba such spaces were provided by the so-called societies of color, an island-wide network of recreational and mutual aid societies created by and for Afro-Cubans.16 Though always fraught with tensions along the lines of class and color, these Afro-Cuban institutions were centers of social life during a period in which most leisure activity on the island remained racially segregated. The most well-known society of color on the island was the Havana-based Club Atenas, described in a profile written for the Crisis by Margaret Ross Martin, an African American then residing in Cuba, as “Cuba’s most exclusive cultural, social and recreational organization among the colored people.” Founded in 1917 by mem- bers of an emerging class of Afro-Cuban professionals and other public figures, the Club Atenas assumed the role of voice of the Afro-Cuban population.17 Despite its elitist tendencies, the organization served as a space for congregation and recreation, as well as an important political advocacy group for Afro-Cubans. As a representative of the colored race in Cuba, the association also identified itself with black popula- tions in other parts of the world, particularly African Americans. Through activities such as organizing readings of works by African American writers or by profiling the careers of prominent black leaders in the United States in their publications, the Club Atenas and other Afro-Cuban societies became important sources of informa- tion on African Americans during these years.18 The Club Atenas also served as an unofficial host for African Americans and other persons of African descent who visited Cuba. Several foreign black visitors to the island during the 1920s and 1930s were introduced to Afro-Cuban social life through their encounters with the societies of color during their stays on the island, particularly the Club Atenas.19 In the early 1930s, the club entertained a number of African American visitors to Cuba, including Langston Hughes, William Pickens, and Mary McLeod Bethune, among many others. The Club Atenas not only hosted African American visitors to the island but also counted some as members. While 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 24

24 Radical History Review

residing in Cuba in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Margaret Ross Martin and James Walter Martin were active members of the organization. In 1930, they helped coor- dinate the club’s reception of Pickens, Bethune, and other African American visitors to Cuba.20 The Club Atenas also made a favorable impression on another foreign black visitor, Arturo (Arthur) Schomburg. In 1932, he published an essay on his trip to Cuba in quest of Negro books in the National Urban League’s magazine Opportu- nity, in which he enthusiastically described his encounters with Afro-Cuban intel- lectuals in the halls of Atenas, including his meeting with Nicolás Guillén. Schom- burg was so impressed with the activities of the Afro-Cuban community in Havana that he wrote, “To American Negroes interested in the cultural development of their race, a trip to Cuba would be an inspiration and a revelation that might astound them.”21 Thus the Club Atenas and other Afro-Cuban societies throughout the island performed a function similar to that of black schools in the United States by pro- viding spaces of congregation for an emerging transnational network of Afro- Cuban/African American intellectuals, entrepreneurs, activists, and journalists who played a critical role in disseminating information about the colored race in both countries. Schomburg’s trip to Cuba took place at the beginning of a revolutionary period in history: the 1930s. During this tumultuous decade, racial understandings and the meaning of racial equality throughout the were transformed by the social and political upheavals generated by the . As scholars have shown, the decade proved a decisive moment for movements for racial equality throughout the African diaspora. The international Scottsboro campaign waged by communist activists, the Italian invasion of and the emerging anticolonial movement in and , and the explosion of militant labor uprisings in the Caribbean helped set in motion more aggressive chal- lenges to ongoing practices of racial exclusion. At the same time, the economic col- lapse engendered by the Great Depression weakened the legitimacy of the capital- ist-oriented project of racial improvement that had been touted by organizations such as Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, among many others. In the 1930s, movements that aggressively championed the interests of the laboring majority of the colored race challenged organizations whose messages remained primarily directed toward upwardly mobile, educated persons of African descent. These mobilizations had a profound effect on the ways the colored race was imagined in activist and intellectual circles, challenging the paradigm of racial improvement that had served as the dominant model of social and political organi- zation since the nineteenth century.22 These wider transformations had equally profound effects on the movement against racial discrimination in Cuba. Since the inauguration of the republic in 1902, 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 25

Guridy | From Solidarity to Cross-Fertilization 25

Cuba had experienced two opposing tendencies in regards to questions of racial equality. On the one hand, the notion of a raceless nationality articulated by patri- ots such as José Martí and Antonio Maceo had become pillars of Cuban nationalist discourse. Martí’s notion of a Cuba “with all and for all” appeared to be borne out by the emergence of a small number of successful Afro-Cuban professionals who attained a measure of political influence on the island during the opening decades of the century. On the other hand, the presence of this upwardly mobile class of Afro-Cubans did not deter ongoing practices of racial discrimination and periodic outbreaks of racial violence throughout the 1910s and 1920s. In fact, some Cuban whites resented blacks and mulattoes with a measure of economic standing and political influence, particularly after the onset of the economic crisis generated by the depression. These simmering tensions exploded in the persecution of many prominent Afro-Cubans following the collapse of the Cuban state in 1933.23 For a number of Cubans concerned about racial inequality in their society, the events of 1933 illustrated the need for more active measures to attack the per- sistence of racism on the island. During the 1930s, a younger generation of male and female activists with roots in the societies of color and the Cuban waged a battle for the citizenship rights belonging to Afro-Cubans. Like activists in other parts of the African diaspora at this time, these younger Afro-Cubans and their progressive white allies sought to combat practices of racial discrimination by more forcefully incorporating the interests of the often-overlooked sectors of the Cuban colored race, namely, working-class blacks and mulattoes and Afro-Cuban women. They argued that the national ideology of a raceless nationality meant little if there was no corresponding effort to actively contest persistent practices of racial discrim- ination on the island. It is within this context that one must situate the outburst of activism generated by the visit of Arthur W. Mitchell to Cuba in late 1937.24

El Caso Mitchell and the Antidiscrimination Movement in Cuba In the months leading up to Mitchell’s visit, the impact of transnational transforma- tions in racial understandings became increasingly apparent in Cuban political and intellectual culture. In December 1936, a group of Cuban intellectuals and activists, led by the well-known scholar Fernando Ortiz, founded the Sociedad de Estudios Afrocubanos (Society of Afrocuban Studies).25 The group’s membership included many of the same figures who had been active participants in the Club Atenas and the wider antidiscrimination movement, such as Miguel Angel Céspedes, Nicolás Guillén, José Luciano Franco, Juan Marinello, Salvador García Agüero, and Ana Etchegoyen de Cañizares. In its activities and publications, the organization pro- vided a forum for newer scholarly perspectives on the political, social, and cultural life of the colored race in Cuba and in other parts of the African diaspora. Among the plethora of noteworthy activities organized by the Society of 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 26

26 Radical History Review

Afrocuban Studies, two reveal the process of cross-fertilization taking place between Cubans and African Americans during this period of heightened political mobiliza- tion and social awareness. In March 1937, the society held a seminar entitled “Los ‘Spirituals negro songs’ y su acción étnico-social.” Complete with demonstrations from the vocalist Zoila Gálvez de Andreu, a well-known intellectual and performer in Havana cultural circles, and accompanied by Pedro García Arango on the piano, the event was designed to educate the Cuban public on the “spiritual Negro song.” Gálvez and García performed such spiritual classics as “Weepin’ Mary” [No llores María], “Nobody Knows de Trouble I See” [Nadie sabe las cosas que yo veo], and “By(e) an’ By(e)” [¡Oh, un día de estos!]. The performance of the “Negro spirituals” in the headquarters of one of the island’s leading cultural institutions highlights the centrality of Cuban readings of African American experience in the formulation of their own understandings of racialized populations.26 The Sociedad de Estudios Afrocubanos also organized a lecture given by the Puerto Rican intellectual Tomás Blanco. In the presentation, entitled “El prejuicio racial en ” [Racial prejudice in Puerto Rico], Blanco presented his views of race in Puerto Rico by juxtaposing what he viewed as mild Puerto Rican racism with the stringent racialized practices of the United States.27 Blanco’s text- book case of North American racism was an incident involving none other than Arthur Mitchell. Using Time magazine as his source, Blanco described an episode in which the African American congressman was forced out of a first-class “white” railroad car on a train traveling through the state of , in April 1937.28 Blanco’s reference to the discrimination case involving congressman Mitchell was ironic, for it was only one month after Blanco’s lecture at the Society of Afrocuban Studies that Mitchell would again be embroiled in a racial discrimination incident, this time in Cuba. Arthur Mitchell’s career illustrates the political trajectories of a number of Cuban and North American black leaders during this period. Born in in 1883, he was a disciple of Booker T. Washington and rose to prominence as an edu- cator in his home state before he decided to enter into politics. After serving in Pres- ident Herbert Hoover’s 1928 campaign, Mitchell moved to Chicago and switched over to the Democratic Party. He learned the rules of Chicago machine politics and quickly rose through the ranks of the Chicago Democrats. In 1934, he made an unsuccessful attempt to capture the Democratic nomination for representative of the First District, finishing as the runner-up to the longtime white politician Harry Baker. After Baker’s unexpected death shortly thereafter, Mitchell suddenly became the Democratic candidate for the congressional seat held by popular black incum- bent Oscar DePriest. Mitchell, who had been a virtual unknown in local politics, unexpectedly defeated DePriest in 1934 and replaced him as the only African Amer- ican in Congress. As the first African American elected to Congress as a Democrat, 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 27

Guridy | From Solidarity to Cross-Fertilization 27

Mitchell’s victory signified the beginning of the shift of African American loyalties to the Democratic Party after decades of loyal support for the Republicans.29 During his tenure in Congress, Mitchell became an unpopular figure among a number of African American leaders who saw him as little more than a political opportunist. However, during the 1930s, his status as the only African American serving in the U.S. Congress automatically placed him in the role of race leader, a position he strategically embraced. Mitchell’s conflicts with other African American leaders meant little to Afro-Cuban observers of U.S. domestic politics, who saw him as the “Honorable Arthur W. Mitchell,” leader of the “colored race.” One Afro-Cuban admirer informed Mitchell that he “read with extraordinary satisfaction about your liberal, valiant and realistic laws favorable to , to workers, and to men of our race.” Such efforts were “worthy of the most sincere praise and imitation.”30 When Congressman Mitchell and his wife Annie Harris Mitchell decided to make Cuba part of a Caribbean holiday vacation, they called on José García Inerar- ity, the Hampton-educated Afro-Cuban entrepreneur. The origin of García’s rela- tionship with Mitchell is uncertain, but his ties to the congressman dated at least as far back as 1934.31 His membership in the Hampton Alumni Association put him in regular contact with African Americans, especially those who traveled to Cuba. Moreover, his efforts to forge ties with African American entrepreneurs frequently carried him to the United States. These connections prompted García to serve the colored race in Cuba and the United States in other ways. In 1930, following a sug- gestion from William Pickens of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), García had offered to become the Cuban correspondent for the Associated Negro Press. A “son of General García of Santa Clara,” who “stud- ied at Hampton and knows English well,” in the words of Pickens, García initiated a correspondence with Barnett that would continue over twenty years.32 García had also written Barnett offering himself as a host for African American visitors to Cuba. After a discrimination case involving the African American educator Mary McLeod Bethune in 1930, he told Barnett that “what we must have is somebody that will take care of American colored people when they come to Cuba so nothing will happen like [what] happen[ed] to Mrs. Bethune.” In the same letter, García enhanced his credentials as a host for African American visitors to the island when he told Barnett that he had “take[n] care of all colored people from U.S. to Cuba every winter.”33 Thus by the time Arthur Mitchell arrived in December 1937, García had become an established contact for African Americans traveling to Cuba. Thanks to the efforts of García and other black and mulatto journalists, the Afro-Cuban community in Havana was prepared to greet Congressman Mitchell. When he stepped off the S.S. on December 28, 1937, he found an enthusi- astic welcome from the who’s who of the Afro-Cuban community in Havana. García, the head of the so-called Commission of Reception for the visit, introduced Mitchell 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 28

28 Radical History Review

to several leading black and mulatto intellectuals and politicians on the island, including Miguel Angel Céspedes, Manuel Capestany Abreu, and Martín Antonio Iglesias. Throughout his brief stay in Cuba, the press repeatedly saluted him for his status as the only black elected official serving in the U.S. Congress. His membership in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Democratic Party and his ardent support of the president’s New Deal programs enhanced his prestige.34 Mitchell was literally besieged by Cubans from the moment he arrived on the island. It was a reception he was unprepared for: “For the love of Heaven,” Mitchell cried to reporters before he stepped off the steamship that brought him to Havana, “is this what was waiting for me when I left to get some rest from the exigencies of the press?—and I have yet to step on Cuban soil!”35 Despite his exasperated mood of the moment, Mitchell granted an interview to Gustavo Urrutia, the black colum- nist of the Havana daily, the Diario de la Marina, later that evening in the halls of the Club Atenas. The journalist’s questions reflected the keen awareness that Afro- Cuban intellectuals possessed of U.S. racial politics. Urrutia asked Mitchell about the opportunities for blacks under Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Mitchell, the true party loyalist, insisted to Urrutia that “the Negro has awoken and is now filling the ranks of the Democrats because of the benefits accruing to him by Rooseveltian pol- itics. . . . Roosevelt is advocating the improvement of the downtrodden classes and the Negro is found in one of the lowliest of these.” He claimed that the “Roosevelt- ian policy is such that the intelligence of the Negro can serve as a lever with which to improve his status on a solid economic base offered to all the impoverished classes.”36 To Urrutia’s remark to Mitchell that “a few Afro-Cubans believe that money from the North American Negro may come to help us in Cuba,” the con- gressman replied that since “the Negro is poor in every corner of the earth,” it was best for blacks in Cuba and the United States to “establish and maintain an intimate spiritual contact for the study and solution of our problems which are essentially identical.”37 The Mitchell tour continued for the next two days, as the U.S. politican was greeted by other Afro-Cuban public figures. Besides Céspedes, Capestany Abreu, and Iglesias, Mitchell met leaders of other societies of color, including Pastor de Albear Friol of the Unión Fraternal, who would become an important figure in Cuban racial politics in subsequent years, and representatives of La Unión of Matan- zas, the Antilla Sport Club, and the Asociación Cultural Femenina. The Mitchells also visited the Senate chambers, where Capestany Abreu saluted them with a champagne punch. After another luncheon with Miguel Angel Céspedes, then undersecretary of justice, the Mitchells boarded the S.S. Virginia to return to the United States.38 Despite the fanfare generated by Mitchell’s visit, his trip did not conclude without incident. Following the reception at the Club Atenas, Mitchell and his party, 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 29

Guridy | From Solidarity to Cross-Fertilization 29

which included his wife, Lieutenant Feliciano González, and José García Inerarity, ran into difficulties securing a table for dinner at the Hotel Saratoga. Though the details remain somewhat sketchy, word quickly spread that the proprietor refused to serve them because they were persons of African descent.39 The incident seems to have occurred quietly, so subtly that even members of Mitchell’s party were not quite sure exactly what happened. After admitting that “some people have said that I did not act as I should, being a lieutenant, that I should have punished the man,” Lieutenant González wrote to Mitchell weeks later claiming that he still did “not yet know what happened,” wondering whether Mitchell himself knew precisely what had occurred at the hotel. “You imagined, as I did,” wrote González, “that something happened,” even though García “never told us.”40 The ambiguity evident in González’s letter and in other correspondence between Mitchell and his Afro-Cuban hosts makes it difficult to ascertain their motives for deciding on the Saratoga for their dinner plans that evening. It is unclear whether they arrived at the Saratoga fully expecting to be served without encoun- tering difficulties or whether they went to the hotel intending to challenge the noto- riously discriminatory practices of many Havana establishments connected to the tourist sector.41 The Mitchells were not the first African American visitors to be denied entrance to Havana hotels and resorts during these years. Certainly, García himself was well aware of the discriminatory practices of the tourist industry in Cuba, as evidenced by a letter he wrote to Claude Barnett years earlier regarding the racial discrimination incident against Mary McLeod Bethune and other African Americans who traveled to Cuba in 1930. It is therefore highly unlikely that he was ignorant of the possibility that he and his guests would encounter difficulties dining at the Hotel Saratoga. Despite the absence of evidence of their motives, it seems rea- sonable to suspect that García and González believed that the presence of a well- known visitor, who also happened to be a congressman from the United States, would override any possibility of racial discrimination. Although members of Mitchell’s party remained in the dark about what occurred at the hotel that evening, the Cuban public quickly received the unam- biguous message that their distinguished visitor had been a victim of racial discrim- ination. In the days after the dinner at the Saratoga, the Havana press published a firestorm of protest. Antonio Villanueva, the owner of the hotel, quickly dismissed the charges of racial discrimination in a letter written to the U.S. ambassador, pub- lished in the Diario de la Marina. Villanueva wanted to “definitively deny” the accu- sations of racial discrimination and insist that the delays in service were due to the overwhelming number of tourists at the hotel’s restaurant that evening. Further- more, Villanueva insisted that “the head waiter personally served the congressman and his associates” in an effort to make up for any inconveniences experienced by the Mitchell party.42 José I. Rivero, the director of the Diario de la Marina, reiterated 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 30

30 Radical History Review

Villanueva’s account. An exchange appeared in Rivero’s newspaper over the director’s decision not to publish an article of protest penned by the black columnist Gustavo Urrutia. Rivero defended his decision, claiming that the accusations against Vil- lanueva were unfounded. In his reply to Urrutia, the editor argued that he found it “hard to believe that a businessman would openly insult an official of our Army, and that official would accept the insult in as mild a manner as a Franciscan Friar.” Any delays experienced by the “distinguished Negroes,” according to Rivero, were due to the lack of available tables that evening. Moreover, the newspaper director blamed the unfounded protests on the work of agitators of the “Bolshevik Revolution . . . who have elevated lies to the category of art and science.” While maintaining that nothing discriminatory occurred at the hotel, the newspaper editor defended the right of businessmen to cater to the sensibilities of their more powerful and numer- ous white clientele. “If a businessman refuses to do business with a Negro,” Rivero argued, “in truth it is not he who refuses, but rather his white customers, who are in the majority and possess greater buying power.” Thus Rivero argued against the adoption of an antidiscrimination law because it would punish the “innocent” mer- chant. “Any coercive legislative or governmental measures in this matter would only aggravate or create more conflicts,” he concluded.43 Yet the defenses put forth by Rivero and Villanueva did little to stem the growing tide of protest. Letters calling for the punishment of Villanueva came from various sectors of Cuban society. José García Inerarity was among the first Cubans to inform Mitchell of the unleashed by the incident at the hotel. “All colored people are getting there every night,” García wrote. He followed with the startling claim that “some people came to see me to kill him [the hotel owner].”44 Another let- ter from Clara Ruíz, whom Mitchell had met during his visit, conveyed the anger generated by the episode. “The local press has commented bitterly and forcefully on the incident,” Ruíz claimed, “and all organizations have denounced the deed, demanding of the authorities the immediate expulsion of the proprietor of the Hotel Saratoga.”45 Ruíz and García were not exaggerating the uproar the incident generated. News of the Saratoga episode rapidly spread throughout the island, and heads of the societies of color sprang to action, leading the mobilization of Afro-Cubans in Havana. The Club Atenas became particularly active. On 2, the club held an assembly designed to draw up a legal campaign against the management of the Hotel Saratoga. The attendees of the meeting included many of the radical intellectuals who formed part of the antidiscrimination movement in Cuba, such as Fernando Ortiz, Emilio Roig de Leuchshenring, José Luciano Franco, Juan Marinello, Sal- vador García Agüero, and Benjamin Muñoz Ginarte. They argued that the Mitchell episode illustrated the necessity of an antidiscrimination clause in the Cuban con- stitution. In previous years, Cuban politicians had routinely dismissed protests 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 31

Guridy | From Solidarity to Cross-Fertilization 31

against racial discrimination by invoking article 11 of the Cuban constitution, which stipulated that “all Cubans are equal before the law.” However, the delegates at the Club Atenas meeting argued that additional legislation that called for fines and imprisonment against those found guilty of racial discriminatory acts was needed to “prevent and suppress all acts of racial discrimination.”46 Moreover, the delegates formed a legal team to file a lawsuit against the management of the Hotel Saratoga. In subsequent years, mobilization for antidiscrimination legislation would become a major focus of Cuban antiracist activists. In this way, the Mitchell incident pro- vided an important stimulus for the resurgent campaign for Afro-Cuban rights in the late 1930s and early 1940s. As antidiscrimination activists worked to publicize the Mitchell case in the Cuban public sphere, news of the upsurge of mobilization continued to flow to the congressman’s Washington, DC, office. A few weeks after his return to the United States, a letter arrived from Feliciano González, the military officer who was with the Mitchell party at the hotel. Writing from his military base in Cayo Mambi, Oriente, he informed Mitchell that “the people have raised hell” over the incident. Noting the widespread publicity, the lieutenant related to Mitchell that “your name and mine have practically been in the newspaper everyday. Members of different societies have come together protesting the case.” González claimed that the episode had caused concern even among the upper levels of the Cuban government, prompting , then chief of the Cuban army and president of the repub- lic, to summon him to Havana from his post in Oriente in order to find out “what happened, how it happened, and what was my opinion about the matter.” González stated that Batista wanted to know “what you said and if you left Cuba happy or not.”47 Afro-Cuban activists in Havana were not the only ones mobilized by the treatment Mitchell received at the Hotel Saratoga. It is clear that the Cuban govern- ment’s concern about el caso Mitchell stemmed from the shower of angry telegrams it received from numerous societies of color and other associations throughout the island. The scope of surviving letters and telegrams is truly astonishing and reflects the charged political atmosphere on the island at this time. Afro-Cubans were mobi- lized on an unparalleled scale. Their expectations were high, and the insult dealt to Mitchell, a “distinguished leader of the colored race” from the United States, signified to many across the island that more active measures were needed to protect the rights of people of African descent in Cuba. No less than thirty-eight associations, mostly societies of color, sent telegrams and letters to president Federico Laredo Brú.48 The La Antorcha Society of argued that the government needed to “take all measures in order to avoid the rep- etition of such deplorable acts in honor of the harmony and fraternity that ought to prevail among all Cubans.”49 “It is humiliating,” wrote Francisco Pérez of the Club 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 32

32 Radical History Review

Artístico Cultural in another letter of protest, “that the democratic and liberal spirit of our Constitution has been trampled on and that even the duty of the most ele- mentary courtesy has been ignored in our fatherland and under your government which owes its freedom to a Maceo, to a Moncada, and so many other Negroes who publicly confronted problems of a racial nature.”50 Meanwhile, in the town of Encru- cijada in Las Villas , the leaders of the Sociedad La Unión held a meeting with other organizations, including “labor groups,” and subsequently wrote a letter to president Laredo Brú. “It is necessary for such an order of things to disappear,” they wrote, insisting that the “rulers of our country work to guarantee the true equality of rights for our race.”51 Finally, the Asociación Más Luz of de las Vegas echoed these sentiments in their protest to the president. They called on the gov- ernment to take “swift and energetic action,” which was summed up in the conclud- ing line of the letter: “For the expulsion of the owner of the Saratoga Hotel!”52 While the episode outraged many black and mulatto Cubans, few if any cor- responding sentiments emanated from Congressman Mitchell’s office in Washing- ton. Curiously, Mitchell himself hardly mentioned the incident in the letters he wrote to Cubans following his return to the United States. In a letter to García, for example, Mitchell thanked his Cuban friend for the “wonderful reception given us by the distinguished citizens of your great country.” Moreover, he communicated to his host the “happiness that was ours during our short stay in Havana.”53 In one of his few references to the unpleasant moment at the hotel, Mitchell asked in a letter writ- ten to Clara Ruíz for “newspaper clippings expressing the attitude of the Cuban pub- lic toward the Saratoga Hotel affair.”54 Aside from such brief inquiries, Mitchell kept whatever feelings he had about the incident to himself.55 Despite the significant impact of the wave of protests in Cuba, the campaign against Villanueva did not produce any immediate results. Spurred by the angry telegrams from the societies of color throughout the island, the lawyers hired by the Club Atenas, along with representatives from the an organization called the Com- mittee against Racial Discrimination, filed a lawsuit against the hotel owner before the municipal court of Havana. However, the legal proceedings against the alleged perpetrators of racial discrimination ended in frustration. A few months after the trial’s beginning, the Havana municipal court ruled that there was insufficient evi- dence to convict Villanueva of any wrongdoing.56

Victory at Home and Abroad: Afro-Cuban/African American Information Networks during the War (1940–1944) Although the judicial defeat proved a bitter pill for the Cuban antidiscrimination movement to swallow, the struggle around the Mitchell case legitimized its claims about the necessity of more concrete measures to ensure the equality of all Cuban citizens. Throughout the 1930s, Cubans from a wide range of political persuasions 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 33

Guridy | From Solidarity to Cross-Fertilization 33

had argued for the adoption of a new constitution. After years of ongoing conflict between Fulgencio Batista, the de facto ruler of Cuba, and his numerous political opponents, by the end of the decade the path was clear for the creation of a new con- tract between the Cuban state and its citizenry. In 1940, the Cuban government adopted a new constitution. Although many measures proposed by antidiscrimina- tion activists were omitted, the constitution of 1940 implemented clauses that gave the antidiscrimination movement new leverage against ongoing practices of racial exclusion.57 The fanfare and controversy that surrounded Arthur Mitchell’s trip to Cuba showed that while local struggles for Afro-Cuban civil rights were borne out of specific circumstances unfolding in Cuba, they were also shaped by wider transna- tional processes intruding on the ways racial questions were understood on the island. Aspirations for a more tangible racial equality for the island’s population of African descent did not only derive their inspiration from the leverage created by the new constitution but also from the discourses of democracy generated by the Second World War. Indeed, confining the struggle for racial equality in Cuba or in the United States to a domestic narrative tells only part of the story. A transnational per- spective on racial politics in the United States and Cuba that extends beyond nation- bound historiographies reveals suggestive evidence inviting an integrative approach to understanding the ways questions of racial equality were debated, fought over, and redefined in this period. 58 Within African American intellectual and activist communities, the process of cross-fertilization of racial understandings between Cubans and North Americans of African descent was becoming increasingly apparent during the Second World War. African American observers of the conditions facing the “Negro in Cuba” saw themselves joining with Afro-Cubans in a worldwide struggle for equality and citi- zenship. Their identification with Cubans of African descent was a product of par- ticular relationships established across national borders. Key players in this regard were black news services, such as Claude Barnett’s Associated Negro Press and the Afro-American newspaper chain, along with the connections established between African American intellectuals, including W. E. B. Du Bois, Irene Diggs, and Mercer Cook, and Afro-Cuban institutions. As editors and contributors to the recently founded journal Phylon, the three African American scholars forged ties with Cuban intellectuals during these years in order to enrich the journal’s coverage of race in other parts of the Americas.59 In the early 1940s, Du Bois, Diggs, Cook, and their Cuban contacts formed part of a network of intellectuals and activists who provided vital information on parallel movements for racial equality in Cuba and the United States. Such relationships made it possible for North Americans and Cubans of African descent to identify themselves with a global movement for the extension of democracy to the colored race in their home countries and abroad. 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 34

34 Radical History Review

The relationships constructed by Du Bois and Diggs were cemented during a trip they made to Cuba in June 1941. On their arrival, they received a warm wel- come from their Cuban hosts, many of whom were the same figures who had coor- dinated the reception for Arthur Mitchell four years before. Using his powers as undersecretary of communications, Miguel Angel Céspedes advised local politicians and leaders of the societies of color in the island’s interior of Du Bois’s arrival. Du Bois’s itinerary was set by Fernando Ortiz, and the two men continued their rela- tionship beyond Du Bois’s visit. Soon after Du Bois and Diggs unpacked their bags in Havana, they made what was now a familiar stop at the Club Atenas, where they enjoyed a concert organized by the association’s Sección Femenina and directed by Zoila Gálvez, the same vocalist who had performed the African American spirituals at the Society of Afrocuban Studies in 1937. Like earlier African American visitors to Cuba, Du Bois left the island impressed with Atenas, telling Céspedes, then pres- ident of the association, that he had a “deep admiration for the splendid organization which you have.”60 Du Bois and Diggs then drove the length of the island to Santi- ago, where they met with other Afro-Cuban intellectuals and public officials. Du Bois recorded his observations of Cuba in his column for the Amsterdam News, where he wrote pieces on race relations in Cuba, and was particularly taken by “Señorita Causse,” the Afro-Cuban woman who was superintendent of schools of .61 The trip rejuvenated the then seventy-three-year-old Du Bois, and he wrote to Ortiz following his return to the United States that he “had not only opportunity for thought and observation, but one of the best vacations and periods of rest that I have ever experienced. I come back with renewed vigor to attack the world problems of race and color.”62 Soon after Irene Diggs’s return from her trip to Cuba with Du Bois, she emerged as a key figure in this transnational network of intellectuals, journalists, and activists.63 After serving for many years as W. E. B. Du Bois’s assistant, she was even- tually able to pursue her own anthropological research in Cuba after receiving a Roosevelt Fellowship to study at the in 1943. It seems proba- ble that the 1941 sojourn inspired Diggs’s return to Cuba as a doctoral student in anthropology at the University of Havana to work with Fernando Ortiz. During her residency in Havana, she associated herself with the Afro-Cuban intellectual com- munity in Havana, including Afro-Cuban feminists such as Ana Etchegoyen de Cañizares. Like Du Bois, Diggs disseminated her knowledge of Afro-Cuban culture through her role as the Cuban correspondent for Claude Barnett’s Associated Negro Press. Diggs’s stay in Cuba proved a seminal moment for the young anthropologist. After she earned her Ph.D. in 1946, she continued her work as a specialist on the experiences of people of African descent in the Spanish-speaking Americas. Diggs, like Zora Neale Hurston, became part of a pathbreaking group of black women intel- lectuals who studied the cultural practices of people of African descent outside the 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 35

Guridy | From Solidarity to Cross-Fertilization 35

United States. In so doing, she managed to carve out a space for herself as an impor- tant figure in an arena generally dominated by educated men of African descent.64 Along with Diggs and Du Bois, Mercer Cook provided an important link between Cubans and North Americans of African descent in the early 1940s. Cook took a position at the University of Havana and wrote several stories for the Afro- American, the widely circulated black newspaper run by media entrepreneur Carl Murphy.65 In 1943, Cook served as the main contributor to the newspaper’s series on “colored Cubans,” in which readers could learn about “what they do, how they live, what they think, how the race problem affects them.” The series promised profiles of a “cross-section of colored Cuban life” that would “include statesmen and school- girls, soldiers and entertainers, poets and peasants.” The newspaper confidently pre- dicted to its readers that a “scrapbook made up of these articles will prove an inter- esting addition to your library.”66 Throughout his stay in Cuba, Cook regularly wrote about his encounters with the mobilized community of “colored Cubans” for readers of the Afro-American. During the elections of 1940, several Afro-Cuban candidates, particularly those affiliated with the Communist Party, won seats in the national legislature. But per- haps the most significant victory for the antidiscrimination movement came with the election of Justo Salas, an Afro-Cuban politician, for the mayoralty of . The importance of Salas’s triumph was not lost on Cook, who traveled to San- tiago to see the administration of the “colored mayor” for himself. After spotting Salas during the city’s annual procession, Cook wrote, “There he was, the first colored mayor in the ’s second largest city.” “For me, from that moment on,” Cook continued in his article written for the Afro-American, “Santiago was no longer the scene of the Spanish-American War, of Teddy Roosevelt’s , or of a carnival; it was the home of Justo Salas, 48-year-old brown-skinned mayor of a city which has a population of more than 150,000.”67 Cook’s profile of the “colored mayor” of Santiago proved particularly inspiring in a period when black mayors remained unheard of in the United States. Cook and other African American journalists in Cuba provided stories on perhaps the most important “colored Cuban” of them all at this time: Fulgencio Batista. While most of the white Cuban elite never accepted the mulatto from Ori- ente, African American observers of Cuban affairs claimed him as one of their own. Indeed, the populist Batista of the early 1940s differed quite markedly from the anticommunist Batista of the . After ruling the island indirectly through a series of puppet regimes in the 1930s, the head of the Cuban army traded his military uni- form for civilian attire and won the presidency in 1940. His electoral victory and the adoption of the new constitution signaled the possibility that the promises of social equality echoing in Cuba throughout the 1930s finally had been fulfilled. Indeed, it was during Batista’s rule as civilian president (1940–44) that the movement against 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 36

36 Radical History Review

racial discrimination in Cuba reached its apogee. Even while receiving only nominal support from the Batista regime, black demands for racial equality had gathered steam as Afro-Cuban activists and politicians, particularly those within the Commu- nist Party, enjoyed an unprecedented voice in Cuban politics during these years. From the moment Batista arrived on the political scene, African American journalists monitoring the racial situation in Cuba portrayed him as the “Cuban Strong Man.” In an era when heads of state of African descent remained few and far between, the black press in the United States latched onto Batista as a potential race man. In the same way that Afro-Cubans had viewed Arthur Mitchell as a leader of the colored race during his visit to the island in 1937, so African American intellec- tuals approached Batista. Shortly after Batista’s emergence on the Cuban political stage in 1933, Claude Barnett wrote him inquiring about the role of Afro-Cubans in the revolutionary movement that had unseated the hated dictator .68 During the revolution, Rayford Logan wrote several stories about Batista for the Afro-American, describing him as “the native of the province of Ori- ente, birthplace of Antonio Maceo.”69 By linking Batista with Maceo, a well-known figure to African Americans, Logan aimed to enhance the prestige of the Cuban black leader. Stories on “colored” heads of state such as Batista provided an impor- tant strategic value for African American activists. By highlighting such signs of racial advancement abroad, they sought to strengthen the legitimacy of calls for concrete measures against racism in their home country. In subsequent years, Batista’s career received substantial coverage in the black press in the United States. In 1938, while working for Claude Barnett’s Asso- ciated Negro Press, African American intellectuals Ben Carruthers and William Allen interviewed Batista at Camp Columbia, the island’s central military barracks. After their conversation, in which the army chief detailed the achievements of his administration’s social programs, Carruthers wrote that he had “left the fort feeling that we had met the ‘Strong Man of Cuba’ who holds the destinies of five mil- lion Cubans in his capable hands and is governing the island for the greatest good for the greatest number which is one-third black, one-third olive, one-third white.”70 It seems that Batista himself was aware of the significance he held for African American observers of Cuban affairs. During his visit to Washington, DC, in 1942, the “Black Leader” granted an interview with Carruthers and Alvin White, another Associated Negro Press correspondent. After Batista reiterated the dominant national ideology of antiracism with the declaration that “there are no racial differ- ences in Cuba,” he told White and Carruthers, “half in Spanish and half in English,” that he “hoped the Negroes of the United States would show the same strength that all free men in the world are showing, and that they may lend their aid to the final achievement of victory and thus insure justice and freedom all over the world.”71 Although he patronized the societies of color, as did all Cuban politicians, Batista was 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 37

Guridy | From Solidarity to Cross-Fertilization 37

never known for proclaiming any form of race pride during his political career. His interactions with black intellectuals suggest, however, that he was aware of the significance African American observers had inscribed on him as a race man. But readers of the African American press not only learned about the Cuban head of state but also about the resurgent campaign against racial discrimination on the island. Thanks to Mercer Cook and other black journalists, African Americans became informed of Cuba’s own version of the so-called Double V campaign. In the early 1940s, the antidiscrimination movement on the island was stimulated by the unwavering support of the cross-racial cadre of activists in the Communist Party, including Blas Roca, Juan Marinello, and Salvador García Agüero. As elected officials in this period, Marinello and García Agüero emerged as the most vocal pro- ponents of civil rights in the Cuban legislature. García Agüero’s efforts in particular drew the attention of Cook, who included “Cuba’s Fighting Congressman” in the Afro-American’s “Album” of “colored Cubans.” The article told North American readers about García Agüero’s ascendancy as a politician and leader of the societies of color. Not surprisingly, the congressman’s consciousness of the transnational dimensions of racial discrimination was sharpened by his own encounter with Jim Crow segregation during a trip to the United States, where he saw “horrible things.” The most noteworthy episode occurred when he and his white companions “almost started a riot in Daytona Beach trying to get something to eat.”72 This process of cross-fertilization continued to have a powerful impact on Cubans of African descent during the Second World War. Afro-Cubans attuned to the fate of the colored race in the United States saw African American participation in the war effort as a source of inspiration. One example of this current can be found in the activities of Serapio Páez Zamora, another member of the 1930s gen- eration of Afro-Cuban activists. In 1943, Páez founded a new Afro-Cuban magazine called Somos. Soon after the publication’s founding, Páez reached out to Claude Barnett’s Associated Negro Press in Chicago in order to subscribe to ser- vice. In his application for a subscription, Páez highlighted the importance of African American efforts in the war against as part of his own motivation for founding his publication:

As Director of the newspaper “Somos,” the most conspicuous of our race papers published in the Republic of Cuba, I send a fraternal greeting, through the medium of the Associated Negro Press, to all our racial of , who are fighting for social liberation, and, also, in a special manner, to our glorious sons who are engaged in the battle fronts for the triumph of Democracy, and I hope that the oppressors and discriminators of North America, Cuba and the other countries of this hemisphere as well as in other parts of the world, may come to realize the value of the black man’s efforts, now given, as at other times, in the interest and benefit of what he understands to be 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 38

38 Radical History Review

democracy, in the truest sense of the term, and thus rectify their conduct. I should make no hesitation in signifying that the Negro youth of my country is [sic] awakening to the sense of his responsibilities and is making a determined stand to play his part as circumstances demand.73

In another letter to Barnett, Páez justified his desire to affiliate the magazine with the Associated Negro Press’s news service by highlighting “the necessity of race brothers coming together though separated by ocean[s] deep, because our aims and aspirations are similar, as also our fates.”74 Such proclamations, while rooted in a masculine conception of citizenship, reveal the continuing significance of African Americans in the racialized imaginations constructed by Afro-Cuban activists during the war years.

Transnational Information Networks, the U.S. State Department, and the Coming in Cuba, 1943–1944 The effectiveness Afro-Cuban/African American information circuits in stimulating antiracist activism in both societies drove an unlikely part of the neighboring North American community to take notice. During the Second World War, the U.S. gov- ernment attempted to shape the circulation of racial understandings among people of African descent in both countries. After decades of viewing “negroes” (with a lowercase n) as at best a nuisance or at worst a serious threat to U.S. interests in Cuba, the U.S. State Department suddenly shifted course in the early 1940s. This move was rooted in the rapidly changing international politics taking shape during the Second World War. U.S. officials in Cuba were well aware that the Communist Party’s efforts in the antidiscrimination movement had contributed to its credibility and influence among the Afro-Cuban population. The State Department attempted to cut off the Communists’ influence among Afro-Cubans by courting segments of the black Cuban . While this decision may have had a limited effect in the short term, in the long run the State Department’s attempt to neutralize the island’s antidiscrimination movement would have significant consequences in the develop- ment of racial politics on the island in subsequent decades. The point man in the U.S. government’s effort to court support among Cuban blacks was Pastor de Albear Friol, a prominent leader in the world of the societies of color who also formed part of the group of Afro-Cuban intellectuals welcoming Congressman Mitchell in 1937. As a “moderate Negro,” Pastor de Albear shared the State Department’s concern about the influence of in Cuba, and it is here that he found common ground with the U.S. government. Although the begin- nings of Albear’s relationship with U.S. ambassador are uncertain, by 1943 he was becoming a regular visitor to the embassy, providing his view of racial politics on the island. 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 39

Guridy | From Solidarity to Cross-Fertilization 39

In 1943, the U.S. State Department moved to direct its war propaganda machine toward Afro-Cubans. In a period in which the U.S. government was forced to respond to the Double V campaign waged by African American activists, the State Department sought to publicize the exploits of black servicemen for the Allied forces. Robert McBride, a U.S. official in Cuba, wrote to the State Department in Washington, asking that “the appropriate stooges dig out material on the extent of Negro participation in our war effort.” McBride wanted to provide the war propa- ganda because “the Ambassador has made it a particular point to address Negro groups here” since it was “particularly important at this time when the Communists are making such a strong play for Negro support here, and he has been most effec- tive in counteracting this.”75 Armed with information from Albear’s intelligence gathering, the U.S. State Department went to work on courting the support of the island’s Afro-Cuban lead- ers. Writing for the Afro-American in February 1943, Mercer Cook reported on the U.S. ambassador’s efforts to “spread interracial flavor in Cuba.” At a speech in the headquarters of the Unión Fraternal, a society of color in Havana, Ambassador Braden told his audience: “I do not mean to infer that the have been perfect in these racial matters. On the contrary, we have many things to be ashamed of and to regret; but, at least, it is something that we are ashamed and do regret, for that proves we are progressing. It would be to no avail now to enumerate the injus- tices and tragedies of the past. The point is to make sure that these errors will not be repeated.”76 Shortly after his speech at the Unión Fraternal, Braden made another appear- ance at the Club Atenas to attend a meeting organized in honor of Franklin Roo- sevelt. “Meetings like these are a great pleasure to my chief President Roosevelt,” the ambassador stated. He continued by tactlessly telling “Havana’s leading colored cit- izens” that “Roosevelt always enjoys being with the common folk” because he “is so democratic.” No doubt following the counsel of Albear, Braden made sure to quote from Antonio Maceo three times in his speech. The ambassador was then followed by “eloquent, straight from the shoulder addresses” from Angel Suárez Rocabruna and Miguel Angel Céspedes. In a move exemplary of the influence of racial ideas emanating from African American intellectuals, Céspedes cited an article by W. E. B. Du Bois “on the significance of race during the present war.” According to Cook’s piece, Céspedes argued that true peace would not be achieved unless “the democracies abolish color prejudice and discrimination.” This unlikely scene was closed with a rendition of “Dixie” by the Havana Municipal Band, an event which a puzzled Cook indicated was the “one sour note” of the evening.77 The U.S. embassy targeted not only Havana-based black intellectuals but also leaders of the societies of color in the island’s interior. In a letter to undersecretary of state , Braden reported proudly that “in my trip to and 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 40

40 Radical History Review

here in Habana [sic], I paid especial attention to and addressed the several colored organizations.” He hoped that his visit would succeed “in some measure to offset Communist drives which are directed to winning over negroes in Cuba.”78 The unprecedented attention paid by the United States government to the “Negroes in Cuba” formed part of the larger wartime propaganda campaign de- signed to attract support for the Allied war effort. Central to this agenda was an intensified intelligence gathering operation. In Cuba, U.S. officials were not only worried about the spread of fascism to the island, but they were even more con- cerned with the activities of their ally of the moment, the . It is for this reason that they suddenly sought to undercut the Communists’ dominance over the question of racial equality in Cuba. Pastor de Albear saw eye to eye with the U.S. embassy on communist influence among blacks and mulattoes in Cuba, telling Ambassador Braden that he was “convinced we must go to war with the Communists now, not later” because they were “making giant strides in proselytizing amongst the negroes in Cuba, , Puerto Rico and elsewhere throughout the Caribbean.”79 It seems that Albear was seeking to use his connection with the U.S. embassy to push his own agenda as a leader of the Cuban colored race. Albear sought to manipulate transnational political alliances to suit his own interests. Ambassador Braden admitted as much in a letter to Washington, writing about “Albear’s personal ambitions,” which “as usual, come into play.” The ambassador reiterated that Albear “would like to be the man to organize, as he said in a conference of 500 University graduated negroes, a group to support Grau [the anticommunist candidate for the presidency].”80 Despite Braden’s frequent dismissals of Albear as his “colored” and “boring” friend in his confidential correspondence with his superiors, it is clear the ambassador relied on his informant’s information to make inroads among Afro- Cuban societies of color.81 But opportunist black intellectuals were not the only ones appealing to the U.S. government to defend the rights of people of color in Cuba. Indeed, protests inspired by the war emerged from sources outside the intellectual circles at the cen- ter of Afro-Cuban/African American information networks. In , Riven Met, a North American who identified himself as a “man of color” living in the eastern town of Holguín, filed a complaint with the Cuban government concerning the “questionable activities” of José Trueba, owner of the Hotel Isla de Cuba. According to Met, the hotel owner refused to serve him and his friends drinks at the hotel tavern on the grounds that he did not serve “English dogs.” When Met told Trueba that he was a North American, the hotel owner replied that he “did not serve North American dogs either.” In a written complaint Met gave to the U.S. in nearby Antilla, Met insisted that Trueba had not only violated the Cuban consti- tution but had also offended those “who belonged to nations that are defending Democracy and .” Furthermore, Met pointed out that as a man of color he “deserved the same respect as all men, especially in the current moment 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 41

Guridy | From Solidarity to Cross-Fertilization 41

when men of color are dying in the battlefields as white men for the defense of Lib- erty.”82 Met’s protest provides another example of the ways people of African descent in Cuba used the discourses of freedom and democracy emanating from the war to defend their rights as citizens of “free” countries. Met’s petition also indicates the ways such discourses could operate far away from the black intellectual circles in Havana on the ground, motivating blacks throughout the island to draw on the changing configurations of international politics toward a democratic agenda. With such identifications being made by Cubans and North Americans of African descent, it is no wonder that the U.S. government sought to harness this sentiment for its own benefit. The shift in U.S. policy on the race question in Cuba underscores the funda- mentally transnational nature of racial politics in Cuba and the United States dur- ing and after the Second World War. Recent work on the U.S. civil rights movement has highlighted the impact of the cold war on African American activism and the conceptualization of race and civil rights during this period.83 This literature has shown that the U.S. government approached the question of racial equality as a transnational rather than simply a domestic issue. With the increasing influence of anticolonial movements in Asia and Africa, the U.S. government was forced to project a positive portrait of race relations within its own national borders so as to legitimize its sought-after position as a leader of the democratic world. The U.S. embassy’s attempts to cut the ties between Afro-Cuban activists and the Cuban Communist Party (then called the Unión Revolucionaria Comunista) formed part of this larger process. However, this effort was not only an imposition of a U.S. impe- rial agenda, but it also constituted a response to the effectiveness of the local antidis- crimination movement in Cuba. In subsequent decades, the dissemination of racial liberalism by the U.S. State Department and by anticommunist African Americans and Afro-Cubans in Cuba helped sever the alliance between black activists and the Communist Party on the island that had formed the basis of the movement’s strength during the late 1930s and early 1940s. A competing faction of anticommunist Afro- Cuban leaders would many black and mulatto Communists from the federa- tions of the societies of color.84 These changing alliances had a profound effect, reflecting the impact of the cold war on the articulation of racial understandings in the post–World War II period.

Conclusion An exploration of the intersection between local and transnational processes in the making of racial understandings in Cuba during the 1930s and early 1940s offers a more nuanced understanding of the complex interactions between people of African descent in Cuba and the United States. For antidiscrimination activists in both coun- tries, knowledge of the conditions facing the colored race abroad had a stimulating effect on antidiscrimination campaigns at home. The effects of this transnational 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 42

42 Radical History Review

racial awareness proved especially profound in Cuba. As in previous decades, Afro- Cuban principles of affiliation were informed by the example of African Americans in the United States. As the Mitchell case illustrates, the news of an insult to the “dis- tinguished leader of the colored race” from the United States provided powerful ammunition for arguments for more concrete measures against racial discrimina- tion in a society that had supposedly eliminated racism. Yet African Americans were also affected by this process of cross-fertilization. During the Second World War, they continued their historic interest in “the Negro in Cuba,” as evidenced by the coverage the black press gave to Cuban race relations in general and the achievements of “col- ored Cubans” in particular. Analyzing this dynamic process of transnational exchange enables us to understand these cases of Afro-Cuban/African American interaction not simply as a product of a natural racial kinship but as a result of accelerating contact between an eclectic group of scholars, activists, entrepreneurs, and journalists who found common cause in a global struggle for equality and citizenship. An examination of these relationships reveals the limits of nation-bound approaches that tend to over- look the effects of the multiple points of contact on the making of racial understand- ings by people of African descent in different nation-states. The power of the information networks created by Afro-Cubans and African Americans comes into clear evidence in the response of representatives of the U.S. State Department in Cuba. This historic shift by the U.S. government constituted a policy that formed in response to local-level mobilization in Cuba, the United States, and in other parts of the colonial world. In this case, it was the antidiscrimination movement in Cuba, and the concessions made to the emerging civil rights move- ment in the United States, that compelled the U.S. State Department to make an unprecedented shift in their attitude toward Afro-Cubans. Their attempts to court Cuban black leaders reflected their acknowledgment of the powerful influence of transnational information flows among Cuban and North American persons of African descent. The interactions between Afro-Cubans and African Americans examined in this essay represent only a glimpse of the countless transnational relationships cre- ated by people of African descent in both societies. Instead of situating these rela- tionships within a vague transnational context, the analysis presented here can be viewed as a call for specificity in the writing of twentieth-century African diaspora history.85 Capturing the histories of these transnational connections and their impact on the making of racial understandings and other forms of social knowledge can be accomplished through an interrogation of the particular relationships between and among specific communities across national borders. Such an approach need not celebrate the triumph of the transnational over the local, but instead it can offer a perspective highlighting the complex interaction between the two. In this way, we can continue to uncover the rich histories of exchange and cross-fertilization that nation-based narratives remain less likely to reveal. Such an approach might allow us 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 43

Guridy | From Solidarity to Cross-Fertilization 43

to grasp the dynamic interplay between local and transnational processes that enabled people to link the lived experiences of members of the colored race in Tuskegee, Harlem, Detroit, and Scottsboro with those who lived in Havana, -au- Prince, , and San Juan.

Notes I would like to thank Rebecca Scott, Susan Dearing, Nicole Stanton, Kathryn Tomasek, Nancy Mirabal, and Marc McLeod for their comments on earlier drafts of this essay. The research for this article was made possible by grants from the Institute for the Study of World Politics, the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Center, the Mellon Candidacy Fellowship at the University of Michigan, and the Office of the Provost at Wheaton College.

1. Scholars have highlighted the 1930s and 1940s as a key moment in the mobilization of people of African descent for equality and citizenship. See for example, Immanuel Geiss, The Pan-African Movement (: Methuen, 1974); Robin D. G. Kelley, “The World the Diaspora Made: C. L. R. James and the Politics of History,” in Rethinking C. L. R. James, ed. Grant Farred (London: Blackwell, 1996), 103–30; Brenda Gayle Plummer, Rising Wind: Black Americans and U.S. , 1935–1960 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); and Penny Von Eschen, Race against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937–1957 (Ithaca, NY: Press, 1997). 2. I use the term racial understandings, rather than racial identity, in order to highlight the ways people of African descent employed race as a form of social knowledge that informed political action. In this way, I join the work of scholars historicizing the process of “race-making” among all social classes and gendered and racialized groups. See Thomas C. Holt, “Marking: Race, Race-Making, and the Writing of History,” American Historical Review 100.1 (1995): 1–20; and Holt, The Problem of Race in the Twenty-first Century (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000). On the limits of identity as an analytical tool, see Rogers Brubaker and Frederick Cooper, “Beyond Identity,” Theory and Society 29.1 (2000): 1–47. 3. Scholars on race in twentieth-century Cuba have highlighted parallels between Afro-Cuban and African American struggles for equality, but they have not yet made them a subject of intense study. See, for example, , Our Rightful Share: The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995); and Helg, “Black Men, Racial Stereotyping, and Violence in Cuba and the U.S. South at the Turn of the Century,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 42.1 (2000): 576–604; Ada Ferrer, Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation, and Revolution, 1868–1898 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999); Alejandra Bronfman, “Reforming Race in Cuba, 1902–1940” (Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 2000); and Alejandro de la Fuente, A Nation for All: Race, Inequality, and Politics in Twentieth-Century Cuba (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001). 4. Historians have recently reemphasized the transnational dimensions of African American history. Aside from the works mentioned in note 2 above, see Robin D. G. Kelley, “ ‘But A Local Phase of a World Problem’: Black History’s Global Vision,” Journal of American History 86.3 (1999): 1045–92; Earl Lewis, “To Turn As on a Pivot: Writing African Americans into a History of Overlapping ,” American Historical Review 100.3 (1995): 765–87; Lisa Brock and Digna Castañeda Fuertes, ed., Between Race and Empire: African-Americans and Cubans before the (Philadelphia: Temple 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 44

44 Radical History Review

University Press, 1998); and James H. Merriwether, Proudly We Can Be Africans: Black Americans and Africa (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002). 5. Brock and Castañeda Fuertes, Between Race and Empire. See also Ruth Reitan, The Rise and Fall of an Alliance: Cuba and African-American Leaders in the (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1999). One important location of Afro-Cuban/African American interaction in the United States during this period was Tampa, . See Susan Greenbaum, More Than Black: Afro-Cubans in Tampa (Gainesville: Press, 2002); Nancy Raquel Mirabal, “Telling Silences and Making Community: Afro-Cubans and African Americans in and Tampa, 1899–1915,” in Brock and Castañeda Fuertes, Between Race and Empire, 49–69; as well as Evelio Grillo, Black Cuban/Black American: A Memoir (Houston, TX: Arte Público, 2000). 6. An example of this trend is Martin Delany’s novel Blake, which highlighted and the question of the island’s annexation to the United States during the antebellum period. Martin Delany, Blake; or, the Huts of America, ed. Floyd J. Miller (: Beacon, [1861] 1970). 7. See, for example, Arrechea, “Minerva: A Magazine for Women (and Men) of Color,” in Brock and Castañeda Fuertes, Between Race and Empire, 36. 8. On African American support for Cuban separatism, see Johnetta Cole, “Afro-American Solidarity with Cuba,” Black Scholar 8.8-10 (1977): 73–80. For an analysis of the dynamics of race in the Cuban separatist movement, see Ada Ferrer’s Insurgent Cuba. 9. On African American reactions to the Cuban independence struggle, see Willard Gatewood, Black Americans and the White Man’s Burden, 1898–1903 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1975), 154–79; and Rebecca J. Scott, “Reclamar la cuidadanía, imponiendo el imperio: La misión ambigua de los voluntarios negros del noveno regimiento de infantería estadounidense en San Luis, Santiago de Cuba, 1898–99,” Del Caribe 37 (2002): 22–27. On the complex interplay between notions of race, gender, and citizenship among African Americans in this period, see Michele Mitchell, “‘The Black Man’s Burden’: African Americans, , and Notions of Manhood, 1890–1910,” International Review of Social History, supplement 44.4 (1999): 77–99. 10. My reading of the U.S./Cuban imperial encounter on Afro-Cuban/African American interaction is informed by more recent work on the cultural ramifications of the U.S. presence in the Caribbean and . See Louis A. Pérez, On Becoming Cuban: Identity, Nationality, and Culture (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999); and Gilbert M. Joseph, Catherine C. LeGrand, and Ricardo D. Salvatore, eds., Close Encounters of Empire: Writing the Cultural History of U.S.–Latin American Relations (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998). 11. See Louis R. Harlan, Booker T. Washington: The Making of a Black Leader, 1856–1901 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972); and Rafael Serra, Para blancos y negros (Havana: Imprenta “El Score,” 1907). I explore the multiple uses of Washington’s ideas in Cuba in my dissertation, “Racial Knowledge in Cuba: The Production of a Social Fact, 1912–44” (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 2002), 146–49. See also Helg, Our Rightful Share, 130; and de la Fuente, A Nation for All, 166. 12. “Ecos de sociedad,” El Comercio (Cienfuegos), September 4, 1915. 13. Booker T. Washington, “Industrial Education for Cuban Negroes,” Christian Register, August 18, 1898, 924–25. See also Harlan, Booker T. Washington: The Making of a Black Leader, 1856–1901, 283–84. Washington also successfully recruited several students from Puerto Rico after the U.S. invasion of the island in 1898. He solicited the participation of Hampton Institute in this effort. 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 45

Guridy | From Solidarity to Cross-Fertilization 45

14. García’s relationships with African American intellectuals and activists can bee seen in his letters to Claude Barnett, box 203, folder 4, Claude Barnett Papers (hereafter CBP), Chicago Historical Society (hereafter CHS). Barnett himself first encountered Cubans of African descent while a student at Tuskegee. See Guridy, “Racial Knowledge in Cuba,” 317. 15. García’s experience parallels that of the Tampa-born Evelio Grillo, who also described the impact of African American schools on the formation of his own racialized self-understanding. See Grillo, Black Cuban/Black American, 58–90. 16. Until implementation of desegregation measures by the revolutionary government of Fidel , most mutual aid and recreational societies in Cuba remained racially segregated. These societies, legally categorized as associations of “instruction and recreation,” played central roles in Cuban social life during the republican period, often extending beyond their primary role in organizing leisure activities. On the histories of these important Afro-Cuban institutions, see Oilda Hevia Lanier, El Directorio Central de las Sociedades Negras de Cuba, 1886–1894 (Havana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1996); Philip A. Howard, Changing History: Afro-Cuban Cabildos and Societies of Color in the Nineteenth Century (Baton Rouge: State University Press, 1998); de la Fuente, A Nation for All, particularly chap. 4, and Guridy, “Racial Knowledge in Cuba,” 34–105. 17. Margaret Ross Martin, “The Negro in Cuba,” Crisis, January 1932, 453–55. 18. The Club Atenas, like many Afro-Cuban organizations at this time, fulfilled many of the same functions as African American literary societies. See Elizabeth McHenry, Forgotten Readers: Recovering the Lost History of African American Literary Societies (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002). 19. In 1921, the club provided a reception for Marcus Garvey during his trip to Cuba. See Bernardo García Dominguez, “Garvey and Cuba,” in Garvey: His Work and Impact, ed. Rupert Lewis and Patrick Bryan (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1991), 299–305; and Marc McLeod, “Garveyism in Cuba, 1920–1940,” Journal of Caribbean History 30.1–2 (1996): 132–68. 20. “Visita de distinción,” Boletín oficial del Club Atenas, September 20, 1930, 56, 60. 21. Arthur A. Schomburg, “My Trip to Cuba in Quest of Negro Books,” Opportunity, February 1933, 48–50. 22. The literature on the 1930s is too voluminous to cite here. For concise summaries, see Kelley, “The World the Diaspora Made”; and Plummer, Rising Wind, 37–81. For an important study on the impact of the international Scottsboro campaign on the changing meanings of race in this period, see James A. Miller, Susan D. Pennybacker, and Eve Rosenhaft, “Mother Ada Wright and the International Campaign to Free the Scottsboro Boys, 1931–1934,” American Historical Review 106.2 (2001): 387–430. 23. For more extensive discussions of the impact of the events of 1933 on racial understandings in Cuba, see de la Fuente, A Nation For All, chap. 5, and Guridy, “Racial Knowledge in Cuba,” 225–88. 24. See Guridy, “Racial Knowledge in Cuba,” 289–355. My reading of this important period in Cuban history is informed by historian Robert Whitney’s analysis of Cuban political culture during the 1930s. See Robert Whitney, State and Revolution in Cuba: Mass Mobilization and Political Change, 1920–1940 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000). 25. The founding of the organization was noted by the Journal of Negro History. See “Cuban Negro Studies,” Journal of Negro History 23.1 (1938): 116–20. 26. “Los ‘Spirituals negro songs’ y su acción étnico-social,” Estudios afrocubanos 1.1 (1937): 76–91. 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 46

46 Radical History Review

27. The lecture was subsequently published in 1942 as Tomás Blanco, El prejuicio racial en Puerto Rico, (San Juan: Editorial Biblioteca de Autores Puertorriqueños, 1942). 28. Ibid., 121. On the Mitchell incident and its impact on the desegregation of southern railways, see Catherine A. Barnes, Journey from Jim Crow: The Desegregation of Southern Transit (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), 1–34. 29. See Dennis S. Nordin, The New Deal’s Black Congressman: A Life of Arthur Wergs Mitchell (Columbia: University of Press, 1997). 30. Letter to Arthur Mitchell, February 5, 1938, box 36, folder 6, Arthur Mitchell Papers (hereafter AMP), CHS. The signature on the letter is illegible, but it is clear that it was written by an Afro-Cuban politician. 31. José García, Inerarity to Arthur Mitchell, December 11, 1934, box 3, folders 3–5, AMP, CHS. 32. William Pickens to Claude Barnett, October 27, 1930, box 203, folder 4, CBP, CHS. 33. García to Barnett, December 30, 1930, box 203, folder 4, CBP, CHS. 34. The U.S. embassy in Havana even noticed the warm reception Mitchell received. The embassy sent Mitchell several news clippings detailing his visit that were published in the Cuban press. Du Bois to Mitchell, December 30, 1937, box 35, folder 1, AMP, CHS. 35. “Hacia 26 años que no iba al congreso de los E. Unidos un legislador de la raza negra,” Diario de la Marina, December 30, 1937. 36. Ibid. 37. Ibid. 38. Enclosed news clippings in box 35, folder 1, AMP, CHS. 39. It seems that the Mitchell party did eventually secure a table after the initial snub, perhaps after some negotiation with the hotel manager. 40. Feliciano González to Arthur Mitchell, January 22, 1938, box 36, folder 4, AMP, CHS. González’s comments suggest that García was likely the person who negotiated some agreement with the hotel’s management. 41. Unlike the United States, Cuba had no laws sanctioning racial segregation at this time. However, many hotels and resorts routinely excluded persons of African descent. 42. “Sobre el incidente del congresista Mr. Mitchell en el Hotel Saratoga,” Diario de la Marina, , 1938. 43. Jose I. Rivero, “Impresiones,” Diario de la Marina, January 5, 1938. 44. José García Inerarity to Arthur Mitchell, , 1938, box 35, folder 7, AMP, CHS. 45. Clara Ruíz to Arthur Mitchell, January 19, 1938, box 36, folder 4, AMP, CHS. 46. “Efectuada ayer la asamblea en el Club Atenas por el incidente de Mr. Mitchell,” Diario de la Marina, , 1938. 47. Feliciano González to Arthur Mitchell, January 22, 1938, box 36, folder 4, AMP, CHS. 48. These letters and cablegrams were found in box 39, no. 14, Fondo Secretaria de la Presidencia (hereafter SP), Archivo Nacional de Cuba (hereafter ANC). 49. Angel to de la República, , 1937, box 39, no. 14, SP, ANC. The date is incorrect. Since the incident at the Hotel Saratoga occurred on the night of December 29, the letter was likely written on December 29 or 30. 50. Francisco A. Pérez to Colonel Federico Laredo Brú, December 31, 1937, box 39, no. 14, SP, ANC. 51. Sociedad La Unión to Presidente de la República, January 8, 1938, box 39, no. 14, SP, ANC. 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 47

Guridy | From Solidarity to Cross-Fertilization 47

52. Asociación “Más Luz” to Presidente de la República, January 4, 1938, box 39, no. 14, SP, ANC. 53. Mitchell to García, January 15, 1938, box 36, folder 3, AMP, CHS. The incident, like Mitchell’s trip to Cuba in general, received scant treatment in the African American press, possibly because it occurred during the holiday season, and possibly because Mitchell was not beloved by the editors of major black newspapers, including Robert Vann of the Chicago Defender, the preeminent black publication in Mitchell’s home city. 54. Mitchell to Clara Ruíz, February 2, 1938, box 36, folder 6, AMP, CHS. 55. Mitchell’s silence could have been due to the fact that aside from periodic transgressions of racial etiquette on the quotidian level, African Americans had not yet waged a sustained national legal campaign against racial segregation in public facilities and accommodations in the United States during this period. Thus perhaps, to Mitchell, whatever took place at the hotel that evening simply made for yet another encounter with the color line. In the 1930s, civil rights groups such as the NAACP were beginning to focus their efforts on attacking racial segregation in education. On the evolution of the legal campaign for desegregation in the United States, see Mark V. Tushnet, The NAACP’s Legal Strategy against Segregated Education, 1925–1950 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987). Meanwhile, the legal campaign against segregation in transportation industries in the United States was rejuvenated by Mitchell’s own lawsuit against the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway Company, which was filed in April 1938. See Barnes, Journey from Jim Crow, 20–37. 56. “La ley convertida en letra muerta,” , April 1938, 1. 57. On the debates on racial discrimination during the constitutional conventions of 1940, see de la Fuente, A Nation for All, 212–22. 58. Historians have illustrated the changing configurations of racial politics in the United States and throughout the African diaspora during the 1940s. See, for example, Plummer, Rising Wind; and Von Eschen, Race against Empire. 59. Du Bois and Cook were on the Atlanta University faculty at this time, while Diggs was a graduate student and the personal of the former. See David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919–1963 (New York: Henry Holt, 2000), 477–78. 60. W. E. B. Du Bois to Miguel Angel Céspedes, 7, 1941, reel 42, frame 771, W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (hereafter DBP), W. E. B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 61. W. E. B. Du Bois, “As the Crow Flies,” Amsterdam News, June 28, 1941. 62. Du Bois to Ortiz, July 7, 1941, reel 53, frame 178, DBP. 63. I would like to thank Arlene for bringing Diggs’s residency in Cuba to my attention. 64. On Diggs’s understudied life and work, see A. Lynn Bolles, “Ellen Irene Diggs: Coming of Age in Atlanta, Havana, and Baltimore,” in African-American Pioneers in Anthropology, ed. Ira E. Harrison and Faye V. Harrison (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999), 154–67. On her initial trip to Cuba with Du Bois, see David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois, 485. 65. Du Bois to Ortiz, October 1, 1942, reel 54, frame 59, DBP. On the important role of Murphy’s newspaper chain within African American communities during these years, see Hayward Farrar, The Baltimore Afro-American, 1892–1950 (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1998). 66. Mercer Cook, “Colored People in Cuba: What They Are Doing,” Afro-American, , 1943. 03-Guridy 9/16/03 12:25 PM Page 48

48 Radical History Review

67. Mercer Cook, “Santiago Calls Colored Mayor Best One It Ever Had,” Afro-American, August 23, 1941. According to Cook, some black santiagueros he spoke to also highlighted the importance of the election of a “colored mayor.” One “colored man” he interviewed told him that “‘we black folks were in the majority, and we put him in office. He’s the best mayor we ever had,’ he added with a satisfied chuckle.” I would like to thank Eric Arnesen for bringing this and other articles published by the Afro-American on blacks in Cuba during the early 1940s to my attention. 68. Claude Barnett to Fulgencio Batista, September 25, 1933, box 203, folder 3, CBP, CHS. A few weeks later, Batista responded to Barnett’s letter with the stock reply: “Colored race in this country, as Cubans, is taking part in the goal of stabilizing the Republic.” Batista to the Associated Negro Press, October 10, 1933, box 203, folder 3, CBP, CHS. 69. For example, see Rayford Logan, “Black Sergeant Now Becomes Head of the Cuban Army,” Afro-American, September 23, 1933; and Rayford Logan, “Bomb Sent to Cuban Army’s Black Leader,” Afro-American, September 30, 1933. 70. “Howard Prof. Interviews Colonel Batista, Cuban ‘Strong Man,’” Associated Negro Press news release, September 7, 1938, box 203, folder 3, CBP, CHS. 71. “Cuba Has No Color Lines, Says President,” Afro-American, December 19, 1942. 72. Mercer Cook, “Cuba’s Fighting Red Congressman,” Afro-American, April 10, 1943. 73. Serapio Páez Zamora to Claude Barnett, November 27, 1943, box 203, folder 3, CBP, CHS. 74. Páez Zamora to Barnett, August 14, 1944, box 203, folder 3, CBP, CHS. A few months later, the National Federation of Negro Writers and Reporters of Cuba and America also affiliated itself with Barnett’s news service. See Antolin Pujadas and David A. Clack to Claude Barnett, December 10, 1944, box 203, folder 3, CBP, CHS. 75. Robert McBride to George Scherer, Esquire, Division of Latin American , March 20, 1943, decimal file 840.1, record group (hereafter RG) 84, U.S. National Archives (hereafter USNA). 76. Mercer Cook, “U.S. Ambassador Spreads Interracial Flavor in Cuba,” Afro-American, February 13, 1943. 77. Ibid. 78. Braden to Sumner Welles, Under Secretary of State, March 19, 1943, decimal file 837.00/9263, RG 59, USNA. 79. “Memorandum,” April 6, 1944, decimal file 800B, Havana Embassy confidential file, RG 84, USNA. 80. “Memorandum,” October 24, 1944, decimal file 840.1, RG 84, USNA. 81. Ibid. 82. Riven V. Met to Francisco Navarro, October 24, 1944, in Dickinson to Braden, November 8, 1944, decimal file 840.1, RG 84, USNA. In Met’s fascinating letter, which was written in Spanish, he identifies himself as a “native of the United States, North American citizen.” 83. Von Eschen, Race against Empire, 145–66; Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000); and Thomas Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001). 84. On the ascendance of anticommunist Afro-Cuban leaders among the societies of color during the late 1940s and 1950s, see de la Fuente, A Nation for All, 235–43. 85. For a critique of imprecise analyses of transnational processes by scholars who employ the concept of globalization, see Frederick Cooper, “What Is the Concept of Globalization Good For? An African Historian’s Perspective,” African Affairs 100 (2001): 189–213.