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Escape from New YorkThe New Negro Renaissance beyond Harlem$
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Davarian L. Baldwin and Minkah Makalani

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780816677382

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816677382.001.0001

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A Mobilized Diaspora: The First World War and Black Soldiers as New Negroes

A Mobilized Diaspora: The First World War and Black Soldiers as New Negroes

Chapter:
(p.247) 10 A Mobilized Diaspora: The First World War and Black Soldiers as New Negroes
Source:
Escape from New York
Author(s):

Chad Williams

Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
DOI:10.5749/minnesota/9780816677382.003.0011

This chapter examines the impact of World War I on soldiers of African descent and their place, as both symbols and historical actors, in the New Negro movement. It considers how black soldiers from throughout the African diaspora helped shape the radical consciousness of Claude McKay, one of the leading figures in a globally expanding New Negro movement, during the war. McKay, a Jamaica native who left for the United States in 1912, was a budding poet who burst onto the literary and political scene with the July 1919 appearance of “If We Must Die,” written in the midst of the summer’s torrent of racial violence. “If We Must Die” served as a rallying cry for a postwar generation of African Americans and other peoples of African descent committed to challenging racial injustice. McKay traveled to London in fall 1919 and was introduced to a local club for black soldiers. If the war acted as the engine of mobilization setting the African diaspora into motion, black soldiers made the process of the diaspora alive with radical possibility.

Keywords:   black soldiers, World War I, New Negro movement, African diaspora, Claude McKay, African Americans, racial injustice, London, mobilization

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