Reference Entry

Domingo, Wilfred Adolphus

J. A. Zumoff

in African American National Biography

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780195301731
Domingo, Wilfred Adolphus

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socialist, journalist, and Jamaican nationalist, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He was orphaned at an early age and raised by his uncle, Adolphus Grant, and was trained as a tailor. In Jamaica, he joined Sandy Cox's National Club, a pioneering nationalist organization, and became a leader along with Marcus Garvey. In 1910 Domingo moved to Boston, where he attended night school in preparation for medical school. In 1912 he instead moved to New York, where he became a successful importer of Caribbean food. When Garvey settled in New York in 1916, Domingo introduced him to local black political leaders. He became the first editor of the Negro World in 1917, the paper associated with Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association, a Pan-African nationalist organization. At the same time, Domingo—along with other “New Negro” radicals, including Chandler Owen, A. Philip Randolph, and Richard Benjamin Moore—became increasingly active in the Harlem Socialist Party (SP). In general the American SP ignored the oppression of black people, at worst supporting segregation and at best arguing that blacks were subject to only class, and not race, oppression. However, the Harlem branch uniquely attempted to work out a socialist program to deal with black oppression, thanks in part to the work of the pioneer black socialist Hubert Henry Harrison (who had left the SP by the time Domingo joined).Domingo, like many radicals from the British Caribbean, opposed the World War both as a socialist internationalist and as an opponent of British imperialism. Domingo's socialist politics increasingly put him at odds with Garvey, and in 1919, Garvey fired him. He quickly became associated with Owen and Randolph's Messenger, and in 1920 he also helped Moore edit the short-lived, anti-Garvey Emancipator. At the same time he was a leading member of the radical black nationalist African Blood Brotherhood (ABB), organized by Moore, Grace Campbell, and Cyril Valentine Briggs. Unlike other members of the New York ABB, however, Domingo did not join the Communist Party. In fact, in 1919 he criticized the precursor to the Communist Party for not paying enough attention to racial oppression.In the mid-1920s Domingo withdrew from active political life, focusing instead on his business. He did, however, contribute a chapter to Alain Leroy Locke's anthology The New Negro (1925) on West Indians in the United States in which he articulated his perspective on the role of black immigrants on black politics, arguing: “The outstanding contribution of West Indians to American Negro life is the insistent assertion of their manhood in an environment that demands too much servility and unprotesting acquiescence from men of African blood.” In 1923, when the Messenger attacked Garvey for his Caribbean background, Domingo broke with the Messenger, not out of sympathy with Garvey but to protest the paper's increasingly anti–West Indian bias, among other disagreements.In the 1930s Domingo became active in Caribbean politics. He helped form the Jamaica Progressive League in New York in 1936, which advocated self-rule; it soon merged with Norman Manley's Jamaican nationalist People's Nationalist Party. In 1937–1938 he toured Jamaica, and in the late 1930s he contributed to the Jamaican Labour Weekly, Jamaica's first labor paper. With Moore he helped organize the West Indian National Committee in 1941, which, while supporting the British in World War II, sought Caribbean self-determination. In 1941 Manley invited Domingo to visit Jamaica for six months to help organize there. Even before touching shore Domingo was arrested by British authorities under the auspices of wartime emergency powers. Despite the fact that, unlike during World War I, Domingo clearly supported the British, he was held for twenty months in a Jamaican detention center without being charged. Liberals—including the American Civil Liberties Union—radicals, and nationalists took up his case, and in February 1943 the British released him. However, it was not until 1947 that the U.S. government would allow Domingo—who had never become a U.S. citizen—to again enter the country. In the 1950s he broke with his comrades in both the United States and in Jamaica and opposed the short-lived West Indian Federation. In the late 1950s he wrote two pamphlets on this subject, The British West Indian Federation: A Critique (1956) and Federation: Jamaica's Folly (1958). Some sources report that he was married to a classical pianist, but all details of this alleged relationship, including the woman's name, are a mystery. In 1964 Domingo suffered a stroke and four years later died in New York City.

Reference Entry.  844 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History

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