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Wendell Nii Laryea Adjetey

Wendell Patrick Doyle

The CHA Best Scholarly Book in Canadian History Prize

2024

Wendell Nii Laryea AdjeteyCross-Border Cosmopolitans. The Making of a Pan-African North America. The University of North Carolina Press, 2023.

Cross-Border Cosmopolitans. The Making of a Pan-African North America offers new insight on the development and organization of Black liberation movements in the 20th century, on both sides of the Atlantic and on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border. Indeed, its focus is on militant groups of Black North Americans of mixed American, Caribbean and Canadian backgrounds, demonstrating how they played a decisive role in the creation of Pan-Africanism, with the goal of achieving emancipation of Blacks both in the Americas and in Africa, forging, in the process, a dynamic transnational community of solidarity and efficient militantism.

In order to present this story of transnational Pan-Africanism, Wendell Nii Laryea Adjetey accomplishes the dual feat of mobilizing an extremely impressive array of different archives, spread mainly across Canada and the USA, and relies on the mastering of many different historiographies, from North America, to English-speaking Caribbean nations and the intricacies of Cold War insurgencies and counter-insurgencies in Southern Africa.

In this story, famous leaders such as African-American intellectual and activist W.E.B. DuBois and Jamaican political activist Marcus Garvey certainly play key roles, yet the leading characters are the many individual militants and intellectuals, women and men, navigating the challenges of discrimination, economic necessities, repressive police surveillance and hostile governmental actions on both sides of the US-Canada border to all at once find a way to make a living and found families while enabling the Pan-Africanist movement to grow and thrive. Adjetey notably shows how they use the transnational networks and cross-border migrations to help in both endeavours. The diasporic solidarity and mobility across borders then, Adjetey exposes, played a key role in in the strategies of these movements in the face of discrimination, hostility and repression.

This remarkable work presents a thrilling succession of events from Dominica to Rhodesia as well as spooks and double agents infiltrating Pan-Africanist movements in Canada and the USA, as well as incidents such as the occupation at Montreal’s Sir George-Williams university in 1969 by Black students denouncing racism. No less important are the detailed cases of families crisscrossing the border between Ontario and Michigan, Ontario and New York, or from the Little Burgundy neighbourhood of Montreal to Harlem, to overcome both economic difficulties and repression of their organized efforts for the emancipation of Black people on an international scale.

This is a necessary and welcome contribution that not only fills a gap by regrouping these interconnected movements in a single, transnational frame, but will open new perspectives for future researchers.

SHORT LIST – In alphabetical order

Wendell Nii Laryea AdjeteyCross-Border Cosmopolitans. The Making of a Pan-African North America. The University of North Carolina Press, 2023.
Kristin Burnett & Travis HayPlundering the North. A History of Settler Colonialism, Corporate Welfare, and Food Insecurity. The University of Manitoba Press, 2023.
Hilary DodaFashioning Acadians. Clothing in the Atlantic World, 1650–1750. MQUP, 2023.
Serge GrangerLes cousins de l’Empire. Le Québec et l’Inde (1760-1947). Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 2023.
Amanda RicciCountercurrents. Women’s Movements in Postwar Montreal. MQUP, 2023.