I’m excited. I’ve decided to take my book in a new direction, which will have a stronger argumentative hook and utilize more of the research I’ve done (demanding less further research, though it still requires extensive editing).
For a long time, my book has been titled “A Spirit of Compromise and Protest” but the subtitle has been “The Internationalism of African American Women in the Interwar Period.” This book focused on four sorority sisters from New York, who were all abroad in 1928–Yolande Du Bois-Cullen in Paris on her “honeymoon”, Mabel Byrd in Geneva, Juliette Derricotte in Mysore, India, and Eslanda Robeson in London (and later, the USSR and Africa). This was a wonderful topic–it gave me almost the whole world and allowed me to investigate four different types of internationalism, tourism, communism, Christianity, and Pan-Africanism. But I didn’t have a thesis. I just had a topic. And I needed to write the chapters on Robeson and Du Bois-Cullen (I’ve done much of the research on their chapters, and some pre-writing, but the writing has been elusive).
So I’m going to drop Robeson and Du Bois-Cullen and instead focus on Byrd and Derricotte women who articulated a gendered understanding of the protest/accommodation dichotomy (or in T.J. Jackson Lear’s formulation in No Place of Grace–the dialectic between these two). That way, I will include more of their lives than just their international journeys, including their time at Fisk, where they came into conflict over protesting against or compromising with the white president, Thomas Elsa Jones. This story made up my recent article. I will argue that Derricotte’s understanding of compromise was qualitatively different (though in the same family) as Washington’s idea of accommodation.
This will also be more explicitly an intellectual history because I will need to chart the evolution of the protest/accommodation divide both within black thought and within the historiography. A quick attempt to update me on the literature shows that this divide is in a lot of standard/reference sources (and so a “given” in current society?), but not necessarily in recent historiography. I know Robert Norrill in his 2009 book Up from History reconsiders Washington’s role as an accommodationist, but I’m curious as to how other works have stretched interpretations of the divide. In addition to the Du Bois/Washington conflict, Gunnar Myrdal used the two categories to describe all black leaders.
My work will both challenge the dichotomy as over-simplified, particularly within individual people’s lives, while also recognizing it as a trend within black thought. A quick search in Project Muse suggests that Pauline Hopkins inhabited protest in response to Washington’s accommodation. But searching for just “protest accommodation” leads to myriad sources not actually on the topic itself.
I’m curious if you’ve read anything recently in black history or intellectual history that updates the historiography on protest/accommodation? Or genders the idea? [another recent article suggests that a white woman politician was an accommodationist]