Year of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Department or School/College
Department of History
Tobin Miller Shearer
Jeffrey Wiltse, Gregory Campbell
Racial Identity, Colorism, Marcus Garvey, W. E. B. Du Bois, Earnest S. Cox, John Powell, Walter A. Plecker
University of Montana
African American Studies | Cultural History | Intellectual History | Social History | United States History
The following study unravels how Garveyite black nationalists, black integrationists, and Virginian white supremacists understood the race problem and its solution between 1915 and 1930. The racial identity and experiences of these three distinct groups, each informed how they understood the race problem and its solution. The divergent notions about the source of and solution to the race problem coalesced with colorism, sowing seeds of intraracial and interracial conflict and cooperation between the Garveyite black nationalists, black integrationists, and Virginian white supremacists as they navigated how to redress white supremacy and black equality. According to black integrationists and Garveyite black nationalists, the race problem was the system of inequality in America and elsewhere that prescribed blacks as inferior and whites as superior. Both sought to dismantle this inferiority-superiority complex through organizations by pursuing policies that elevated black pride and brought about social, political, and economic equality and opportunities for blacks. While black integrationists and Garveyite black nationalists both understood the source of the problem as the same, their methodology differed drastically. As both race-based organizations attempted to protect their own agenda and bring about the end of racial discrimination and injustice, both colorism rhetoric and Garveyite black nationalists’ alliance with Virginian white supremacists, strengthened rather than weakened white supremacy. Colorism imbued more disunity within the black race, making it difficult for either organization to obtain an immediate end to white racism. Conversely, Virginian white supremacists understood black agitation for equality to be the source of the problem and thus sought to preserve the color line by reaffirming white supremacy. By affiliating themselves with the UNIA, Virginian white supremacists hoped to convince whites that the only way to preserve white supremacy and purity was to repatriate blacks to Africa. The Garveyite black nationalists, they advocated, could assist in this process because they sought to return to Africa. Even though Virginian white supremacists wanted to maintain white supremacy, their solution vis-à-vis racial separation aligned with the agenda Garveyite black nationalists, who also wanted racial separation. Thus, as Garveyite black nationalists used colorism and like agendas to align themselves with Virginia white supremacists, they exacerbated intraracial racial conflict with the black race.
McDonald, Hannah P. "Black Colorism and White Racism: Discourse on the Politics of White Supremacy, Black Equality, and Racial Identity, 1915-1930." Master's thesis, University of Montana, 2020.
© Copyright 2020 Hannah Paige McDonald