Cover: American Congo: The African American Freedom Struggle in the Delta, from Harvard University PressCover: American Congo in HARDCOVER

American Congo

The African American Freedom Struggle in the Delta

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Product Details


$70.50 • £56.95 • €63.50

ISBN 9780674010475

Publication Date: 07/14/2003


288 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


Woodruff’s book stands out for its attempt to situate the white supremacist regime of the Mississippi Delta within a national and international context… Woodruff does offer compelling evidence…for her point that racial terrorism characterized labor relations in both the African and American Congo, and her effort to connect African American resistance in the Delta to colonized peoples’ resistance in other locations is welcome. With its pointed argument and solid base in a range of manuscript sources and oral histories, American Congo speaks to a wide audience. It has broad appeal for readers interested in twentieth-century American history and is particularly important for students of the modern African American struggle for freedom… She also explicates the significant ways in which it changed over time, noting that the struggle persisted across the decades, but in a constantly evolving form. This point, combined with the comparative aspects of Woodruff’s study, makes it a crucial addition to the literature.—Alisa Y. Harrison, North Carolina Historical Review

Woodruff argues that the economic development of the Mississippi Delta lands in the early 20th century resembled the exploitation of African colonies by European capitalism. This involved the subjugation of a largely nonwhite labor force through the near total control of both the economic and local political systems and reflected the application of modern capital, management, and corporate organizational systems to previously underdeveloped agricultural and extractive economies. The author presents a convincing argument that the economic transformation of the Delta lands combined an enlightened and sophisticated capitalism with an oppressive and exploitive labor system.—C. D. Wintz, Choice

Nan Woodruff has brilliantly validated the NAACP’s eighty-year old evocation of the gothic horror of Leopold II’s Congo in the lower Mississippi Valley’s cotton plantation complex. Her book is one harrowing read, leavened by the stunning heroism of indomitable resistance.—Jack Temple Kirby, author of Rural Worlds Last: The American South, 1920–1960

Woodruff has vividly recreated the brutal local history of the Delta and persuasively situated that history in the context of national politics, global economics, and world wars. This book should be required reading for students of Southern, African American, and labor history.—David Montgomery, author of Citizen Worker: The Experience of Workers in the United States with Democracy and the Free Market during the Nineteenth Century

In American Congo Nan Woodruff very rightly places the Mississippi Delta and its racialized political economy in international context. No longer does this heavily black, white-supremacist plantation region float in American (and southern) exceptionalism. Her Delta belongs to the colonized world of the twentieth century, rising and failing in rhythm with the colonies of Asia and Africa as a result of the same world wars. In the Delta as in other colonies, struggle proves long, but also fruitful.—Nell Irvin Painter, author of Southern History across the Color Line

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