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African Americans in Interwar Asia

Thrilled to see the final form of this essay I wrote for BlackPast! It considers the ambitious and varied endeavors of the African diaspora during the Interwar Era.

Of the fields in which African Americans were active, the performing arts is the best known, but the essay also addresses international relations, faith, and writing/journalism.

In examining these interactions, their range and nuance were striking. Take entertainment: Andrew Field's work examining Shanghai dancing culture has done a great deal to highlight the impact of African American performing artists (musical, vocal and dance) on Jazz Age Shanghai. In researching this piece for BlackPast, I learned that African American contributions to entertainment culture in Asia were wider than jazz/dance performance, including

  • Development of vernacular forms of jazz music in Asia;

  • Creating awareness of African American folk music; and

  • The popularization of baseball in Japan

Re baseball, the BlackPast piece doesn't go into this, but it looks like an interesting rabbit hole to explore, as this NPR piece "The Secret History of Black Baseball Players in Japan" suggests.

Also, check out GaryAshwill's blog, which covers the Negro League and Latin American baseball. Ashwill explains this photo from 1927 is commonly described as showing Biz Mackey, but is in fact O'Neal Pullen.

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