This dissertation examines how West Indians utilized the conception of black internationalism—the idea that blacks across the world were part larger global community regardless of country of origin—to inform and give meaning to their struggles in Panama. West Indians were active participants in Marcus Garvey's international Pan-African organization, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), and joined it in droves. Through participation in the UNIA and a strong belief in Garveyism, West Indians started schools and opened businesses to support the community, all the while envisioning themselves as part of a worldwide community of blacks. The dissertation also discusses how in the 1930s and 1940s black internationalism lost sway among West Indians due to shifting social and political contexts. As second generation West Indians—those born in Panama—came of age, they no longer embraced black internationalism. Second generation West Indians (or criollos) sought to integrate into Panamanian society by embracing Spanish and participating in national politics. The main tenets of black internationalism failed to resonant among criollos, who had a more internal and national focus than their parents. Still, race played a large role in criollo efforts to become part of Panamanian society. Criollos embraced their racial heritage and fought for consideration as both Panamanian and black.
This dissertation also offers the most in-depth look at the West Indian community in Panama to date, and foregrounds their history within the overall history of Panama. West Indians had a major influence on Panamanian history, most notably during the 1930s and 1940s when racist, anti-West Indian political parties and politicians rose to prominence. These politicians, most prominently Arnulfo Arias, pledged to expel West Indians from Panama. This dissertation offers a thorough overview of Panamanian history from 1920 to the 1940s, but it does so using the experience of West Indians as the jumping off point.
|Commitee:||Guardino, Peter, McGraw, Jason, Sterling, Marvin|
|School Location:||United States -- Indiana|
|Source:||DAI-A 78/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||African Studies, Latin American history|
|Keywords:||Black internationalism, Garveyism, Labor, Panama, West indians|
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