In 1901, the Tuskegee Institute, founded by Booker T. Washington, sent an expedition to the German colony of Togo in West Africa, with the purpose of transforming the region into a cotton economy similar to that of the post-Reconstruction American South. Alabama in Africa explores the politics of labor, sexuality, and race behind this endeavor, and the economic, political, and intellectual links connecting Germany, Africa, and the southern United States. The cross-fertilization of histories and practices led to the emergence of a global South, reproduced social inequities on both sides of the Atlantic, and pushed the American South and the German Empire to the forefront of modern colonialism.
Zimmerman shows how the people of Togo, rather than serving as a blank slate for American and German ideologies, helped shape their region's place in the global South. He looks at the forms of resistance pioneered by African American freedpeople, Polish migrant laborers, African cotton cultivators, and other groups exploited by, but never passive victims of, the growing colonial political economy. Zimmerman reconstructs the social science of the global South formulated by such thinkers as Max Weber and W.E.B. Du Bois, and reveals how their theories continue to define contemporary race, class, and culture.
Tracking the intertwined histories of Europe, Africa, and the Americas at the turn of the century, Alabama in Africa shows how the politics and economics of the segregated American South significantly reshaped other areas of the world.
Andrew Zimmerman is professor of history at George Washington University and the author of Anthropology and Antihumanism in Imperial Germany.
"This book . . . is incontestably a major contribution. It demonstrates decisively the value of the vanguard trend that is the internationalizing of the African-American experience."--Gerald Horne, Journal of American History
"Zimmerman vividly and powerfully tells this whole triangulated story, a superb example of the new transnational history."--Choice
"[A]n impressively conceptualized and rigorously researched work that has the potential to be a paradigm shifter for historians of race, work, power, and ideas."--Alison Clark Efford, Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
"The chapters begin with useful introductory paragraphs and end with concise concluding thoughts that allow the reader to pause and reflect on the rich evidence and sophisticated analysis that Zimmerman offers. Alabama in Africa is also thoroughly and beautifully illustrated with useful maps and wonderfully detailed photographs. These are particularly helpful in a work of this kind that moves from continent to continent and in which many readers might encounter somewhat unfamiliar regions and story lines. Recommended for scholars, graduate students, and advanced undergraduates, Alabama in Africa is a sterling example of transnational history at its finest."--Robert T. Vinson, Labor
"Zimmerman's important new book brings a fresh perspective to the historiography of cotton and colonialism, upending much of it in innovative and compelling ways. He writes with the perspective of a European intellectual and political historian, but is firmly grounded in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century U.S. history."--Benjamin Lawrance, H-Net Review-West-Africa
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