Making the Internal Colony: Black Internationalism, Development, and the Politics of Colonial Comparison in the United States, 1940–1975
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Klug, Samuel Stearns
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CitationKlug, Samuel Stearns. 2020. Making the Internal Colony: Black Internationalism, Development, and the Politics of Colonial Comparison in the United States, 1940–1975. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation argues that competing interpretations of decolonization contributed to a deepening rift between liberal policymakers and the black freedom movement in the United States between 1940 and 1975.
Growing discord between black activists and social policymakers in the 1960s and 1970s owed much to debates about self-determination, development, and the political economy of the decolonizing world that had been raging since the 1940s. In postwar planning discussions during the Second World War, NAACP leaders and black intellectuals presented colonialism as a problem of racialized economic exploitation, one that the granting of political sovereignty alone would not solve. Black activists translated this understanding of colonialism into postwar development politics, seeking to prevent decolonizing states from falling into positions of economic dependency. Fears of what would come to be called neocolonialism loomed large in African Americans’ interventions in U.S. foreign aid policy, British colonial development policy, and the development strategies of decolonizing Ghana.
These debates about the international order generated new reflections on how colonialism should be understood—a question that took on new importance in domestic political discourse in the 1960s. Leading liberal thinkers promoted an image of the United States as the first postcolonial state, and philanthropists and antipoverty policymakers sought to apply the lessons of international development policy domestically, importing an emphasis on the promotion of suitable “indigenous leaders” into the War on Poverty. Many African Americans, meanwhile, began to characterize American racism as a form of internal colonialism, drawing on a long tradition of black internationalist thinking about colonialism as racialized economic exploitation. The concept of internal colonialism became central to the political language of the Black Power movement, particularly as it sought to transform metropolitan political economies after the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. On the battlegrounds of metropolitan politics, black activists informed by the colonial analogy clashed with social policymakers who understood African American poverty in developmental terms.
Drawing on the archives of government officials, philanthropic organizations, social movement groups, social scientists, writers, and activists, this dissertation shows that contests over racial and class inequality at home were deeply intertwined with Americans’ ideas about colonialism, development, and the international order. “Making the Internal Colony” reframes the story of the relationship between liberalism and the black freedom movement in the U.S. as a longstanding struggle over the meaning of decolonization.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365979
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