Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

The Americans Are Coming!
Dreams of African American Liberation in Segregationist South Africa

By Robert Trent Vinson

“Vinson stresses that though Garveyism germinated in the U.S., its broad tenets found fertile ground in South Africa…where South Africans exploited it in numerous ways to fight racism.”


“Through his extensive archival work in South Africa, Vinson manages to go beyond many existing accounts in order to demonstrate how black South Africans were active participants in constructing the African American struggle for civil rights as a global issue.”

Journal of American Studies

“This is a timely and important book, a great contribution to transnational and Atlantic history, and a genre-buster that dispenses with the border between American studies and African studies.”


“Vinson demonstrates that, although the dream of African American liberation was not realized, the act of dreaming was itself a taste of freedom.”

American Historical Review

For more than half a century before World War II, black South Africans and “American Negroes”—a group that included African Americans and black West Indians—established close institutional and personal relationships that laid the necessary groundwork for the successful South African and American antiapartheid movements. Though African Americans suffered under Jim Crow racial discrimination, oppressed Africans saw African Americans as free people who had risen from slavery to success and were role models and potential liberators.

Many African Americans, regarded initially by the South African government as “honorary whites” exempt from segregation, also saw their activities in South Africa as a divinely ordained mission to establish “Africa for Africans,” liberated from European empires. The Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, the largest black-led movement with two million members and supporters in forty-three countries at its height in the early 1920s, was the most anticipated source of liberation. Though these liberation prophecies went unfulfilled, black South Africans continued to view African Americans as inspirational models and as critical partners in the global antiapartheid struggle.

The Americans Are Coming! is a rare case study that places African history and American history in a global context and centers Africa in African Diaspora studies.

Robert Trent Vinson is the director and chair of the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies at the University of Virginia and a research associate at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. He is a scholar and teacher of nineteenth- and twentieth-century African and African diaspora history, specializing in the transnational connections between southern Africa, the Americas, and the Caribbean. He is the author of The Americans Are Coming!: Dreams of African American Liberation in Segregationist South Africa and Albert Luthuli: Mandela before Mandela.More info →

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Retail price: $34.95, S.
Release date: January 2012
236 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights:  World

Release date: January 2012
236 pages
Rights:  World

Additional Praise for The Americans Are Coming!

The Americans Are Coming! is a major contribution to the study of global Garveyism, and a stunning first volume on the history of Garveyism in Africa. It is also a significant piece of African diaspora and Atlantic world scholarship that places Africa at the center, a paradigm we rarely see…. Vinson has shined a light on Garveyism and convincingly cemented its place in South African history.”


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