Racial Terror & Totalitarianism - Book Review

Washington, Mary Helen
Date Written:  2018-01-01
Publisher:  Against the Current
Year Published:  2018
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23271

A review of Race and the Totalitarian Century: Geopolitics in the Black Literary Imagination
by Vaughn Rasberry.



THE COVER OF Vaughn Rasberry's ambitious and compelling study Race and the Totalitarian Century features a cartoon by leftwing African-American political cartoonist Ollie Harrington, titled "American Crackerocracy and the Polish Ghetto: Sikeston, Missouri, and Germany."

The cartoon, published in 1942 in the Black left U.S. newspaper The People's Voice, shows two images side by side. On the left lies an apparently anonymous Polish woman, her lifeless body slumped against a bullet-ridden wall under a flag bearing the Nazi swastika; the right half of the cartoon pictures the lynched body of a Black man under a sign reading "Sikeston, U.S.A, MO," the Missouri site of the 1942 mob lynching of a Black man, Cleo Wright.

The cover presents in microcosm the central argument and threefold methodology of Race and the Totalitarian Century, which is (1) to insist that colonial violence and modern racial terrorist regimes must be read as forms of totalitarianism; (2) to correct the intellectual traditional accounts of totalitarianism that "scarcely include [these] histories of modern racial terror"; and (3) to foreground a Black tradition of intellectuals, writers, artists and cartoonists who initiated a dialogue throughout the 20th century (also, scarcely included) that refused the conventional polarities of totalitarianism and inserted into that dialogue desegregation, decolonization and Cold War geopolitics. (78)


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