17 Pages

David Fagen: An Afro-American Rebel in the Philippines, 1899–1901

S t u d e n t s o f Afro-American history commonly allege that black responses to white racism, in the century from the Civil War to the end of World War II, rarely included armed resistance. Historian Eugene Genovese summarizes the main characteristics of blacks' reactions as “dependence on white allies and leadership, lack of in­ dependent organization and programs, and individual anti-social acts that showed an unwillingness to accept the status quo but little sense of an altemative.,,2 In fact, there was no alternative: no active and viable organized movement developed to challenge the status

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quo. In previous years, such an option had offered fleeting alterna­ tives to some Afro-Americans. During the Seminole wars, which sp an n ed nearly three decades after the War of 1812, several hun­ dred slave and free blacks grasped the option with the attendant risks.3 In other pre-Civil War instances, blacks created their own revolts, the most notable of which were the Virginia slave uprisings led by Gabriel Prosser and Nat Turner.4 Several elements com­ bined to preclude such possibilities in later years. Numerical weak­ ness, internal divisions, white vigilantism, and an increasingly potent police power all rendered violent resistance to the caste system hopeless. Prosser and Turner belonged to a bygone era.