Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 December 2020
This essay examines the Caribbean as a conflicting node of representation in essays, editorials, stories, and poems in three newspapers owned by Fredrick Douglass and one part-owned by Jamaican John Russwurm that were published in the USA between 1827 and 1874. The shifting and contradictory nature of this representation, ranging from the emancipated Caribbean’s role as a beacon in a ‘discourse of humanity’, to endorsement of US annexation plans as empire solidified, are a direct function of the constriction or widening of African American material space during the period. The condition of being enslaved yielded a different Caribbean-ward affect from the condition of being freedpeople, and the condition of being freedpeople yielded yet a different affect as the dream of black citizenhood emerged in the US post-emancipation era. The trajectory was one of alienation which resonates in African American-Caribbean literary relations today. Reflections are invited on the rise of national imaginaries and literatures across the African diaspora.