Clash of colour: a dialogue on race, caste, and class in the United States and India (1893-1954)
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date22/02/2023
This dissertation examines the relationship between Indian independence activists, Indian anti-caste advocates, and black American civil rights activists between Swami Vivekananda’s first visit to the United States in 1893, and the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Indian figures such as Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore and Lala Lajpat Rai visited the United States for lengthy periods and drew parallels between the oppression of black Americans within America’s racial caste system and the marginalization of Indians under the British Raj and the Indian caste system. Similarly, African-American activists such as W.E.B. Du Bois, A. Philip Randolph and Walter White closely monitored the Indian independence movement in search of alliances and inspiration for combating white supremacy. While scholars have recognized that some American civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. took inspiration from Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and used Gandhi’s non-violent principles in their civil rights activism, they have undervalued interactions between earlier activists. Historians such as Gerald Horne and Nico Slate have documented some of these earlier exchanges, but they also have missed some notable interactions, or, in some cases, misinterpreted some figures’ theorization of race, caste, and class dynamics. The thesis builds on the work of Slate and Horne and examines exchanges between American civil rights activists and their Indian counterparts. It assesses the impact of their exchange of ideas and efforts to forge alliances between African-Americans and Indians. The study utilizes a variety of sources such as letters exchanged between American and Indian thinkers, newspaper articles, monologues, speeches, and interviews. Adopting an approach focused on Indian and American individuals, the thesis analyzes and evaluates the validity and accuracy of their race, caste, and class theorizations, as well as the effects of their activism in America and India.