Introduction
All his life, anti-racist activist José Correia Leite, co-founder of the
longest-lived newspaper in the São Paulo black press, retained a global
perspective he had acquired just after the First World War. In his mem-
oirs, Leite recalled in particular the window the war opened onto trans-
atlantic racial politics:
The American Negroes in France, when they marched separately
from the whites, began to notice that the United States was
heavily criticized for its racial discrimination. And also when they
saw how the Senegalese army marched in Paris—those French-
women draped around the necks of those big Negroes [negrões]—
they saw that they were wrong to think that American whites’
racial discrimination was a generalized thing. . . . That came to our
attention here. We also began to use those facts as example. . . .
All that was published in the papers, and we saw it as based in the
influence of the First World War.1
While Leite’s local social sphere in São Paulo included few African Ameri-
can or African subjects, his understanding of the world incorporated them
and more. Gazing over equator and ocean with the help of the newspaper
press, Leite was entranced by the range of Afro-diasporic subjects and
racial attitudes he observed, and he was transformed by his revelations, as
was a generation of his peers in all the places he noted.
Perhaps it is surprising that such a modest figure paid so much at-
tention to such far-away places and people in this moment prior to elec-
tronic telecommunication. From a twenty-first century vantage point, it
Previous Page Next Page