The Antebellum African American Press and Solidarity with Japan

The 1860 Japanese Embassy was the first Japanese diplomatic mission to the United States and arrived at a time rife with racial tensions. Within the African American press, stories of the Japanese embassy inspired hope for the future and a sense of brotherhood with the samurai visitors. Amidst the confusion and racial controversy sparked by the embassy’s visit, African American and abolitionist newspapers embraced the 1860 embassy as “Negroes from Japan” and used race to create an imagined solidarity that subverted state hierarchies of “civilization” and race. Publications such as Douglass’ Monthly and the Weekly Anglo-African reframed the state reception and public treatment of the Japanese to assert African American membership to the worlds of civility and civilization and prove further the equality of all men. This presentation will explore the transnational African American presence in early US–Japan diplomacy and the influence of Japan on antebellum African American intellectual history and the pursuit of racial equality.