Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nico Slate's "Colored Cosmopolitanism"

Nico Slate is Assistant Professor of History at Carnegie Mellon University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Colored Cosmopolitanism: The Shared Struggle for Freedom in the United States and India, and reported the following:
What did Rabindranath Tagore and W.E.B. Du Bois talk about when they met in New York City in 1930? According to Du Bois, the Nobel Prize-winning Indian poet and the renowned African American scholar “found much in common to discuss concerning the color line which was growing in world importance.” While Indians “naturally recoiled from being mistaken for Negroes and having to share their disabilities,” Du Bois wrote, “the Negroes thought of Indians as people ashamed of their race and color.” According to Du Bois, never one to understate the importance of his endeavors, his meeting with Tagore helped “Negroes and Indians realize that both are fighting the same great battle against the assumption of superiority made so often by the white race.”

Page 99 of my book, Colored Cosmopolitanism, examines the interaction between two intellectual titans of the twentieth century. The relationship between Tagore and Du Bois was only one facet of the long history of connections between African American and South Asian freedom struggles. Some of these connections involved famous figures like Tagore and Du Bois. It is fitting that Page 99 references Gandhi as, along with Du Bois, Gandhi is one of the most important historical actors in the book.

Page 99 also discusses the exploits of lesser-known, but equally remarkable figures—including Gandhi’s close friend, the English priest and anticolonial activist, C.F. Andrews and the Indian poet and president of the Indian National Congress, Sarojini Naidu. I was surprised to see such a variety of people gathered on that one page. One of the great joys of writing a transnational history is being continually surprised by relationships that spanned the borders of nations, races, and history books like mine.
Learn more about Colored Cosmopolitanism at the Harvard University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue