“Civilization has met its Waterloo” The Great War, Race, and the Canon

Mark Whalan

in The Great War and the Culture of the New Negro

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print April 2008 | ISBN: 9780813032061
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813039015 | DOI:
“Civilization has met its Waterloo” The Great War, Race, and the Canon

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This chapter discusses the initial responses of African American writers and intellectuals regarding the war. These writers, who were often subject to the severe circumscriptions of wartime sedition legislation and intense security from the federal authorities, were often torn between expressions of nationalism and hopes that the war could become a vehicle for greater civil rights and African American inclusion into national life. These writers were often subjected under pressures to assert England and France's moral and ethical superiority against Germany without offending the European nations and the African colonies. They were asked to mobilize support against Germany while being aware that the mainstream strategies for doing so were unpleasantly familiar. While they were asked to contribute by any means they could, black Americans were constantly aware that the elastic conceptions of Americanness and whiteness were not elastic enough to include them.

Keywords: African American writers; African American intellectuals; war; wartime sedition legislation; nationalism; civil rights; African American inclusion; black Americans; conceptions of Americanness; conceptions of whiteness

Chapter.  12718 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literature

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