Devyn Spence Benson

Assistant Professor of History and African and African American Studies, Louisiana State University

Biography

Spring 2015: Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellowship

Not Blacks, But Citizens: Race and Revolution in Cuba

Project Description

Not Blacks, But Citizens: Race and Revolution in Cuba

Dr. Benson's project is a transnationally based history of the rhetoric, ideology, and lived experience of race and racism during the 1959 Cuban revolution and the early 1960s. Benson's manuscript tackles the question of how ideas about racial difference, racist stereotypes, and racially-discriminatory practices persist, survive, and reproduce themselves despite significant state efforts to generate social and racial equality. How can racism and equality exist together?  Benson explores these questions using the case study of the 1959 Cuban revolution and Fidel Castro’s public campaign against discrimination in the 1960s.  Pushing past existing scholarship that has established the persistence of racism in on the island, especially after the Special period crisis of the 1990s revealed sharp inequalities in contemporary Cuba, Benson shows that not only were early revolutionary programs ineffective in eliminating racism, but that they frequently negated their own anti-racist efforts by reproducing traditional racist images and idioms, especially in public representations of blacks in revolutionary propaganda, cartoons, and educational materials. Using newly released sources and the voices of Afro-Cubans whose lived experiences highlight the nuances of negotiating life as a peripheral citizen during the revolution, Benson's manuscript offers a way to reconcile stories of post-1959 black censorship with narratives of revolutionary opportunity and exposes the limits of state action—even a revolutionary state’s actions—to eliminate racial discrimination.


Spring 2015: Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellowship


 

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