Department of History

Radical Moves: Caribbean Migrants and the Politics of Race in the Jazz Age

In the generations after emancipation, hundreds of thousands of African-descended working-class men and women left their homes in the British Caribbean to seek opportunity abroad: in the goldfields of Venezuela and the canefields of Cuba, the Panama canal and the bustling streets of Harlem. But in the 1920s and 1930s, a brutal cascade of antiblack immigration laws swept the hemisphere. Families were suddenly divided by borders; hardworking strivers found themselves banned from employ. They fought back. From Trinidad to 136th Street, these were years of fierce dreams and righteous demands. Praying or "jazzing," writing letters to the editor or letters home, Caribbean men and women created a radical, race-proud popular culture--including Marcus Garvey's UNIA, "regge" dances, and Rastafarianism--that resonates up to the present.


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Research Cluster