Orginal Publication Date
Explorations in Ethnic Studies
Sutton E. Griggs's Imperium in Imperio and James D. Corrothers's "A Man They Didn't Know" are two early Afroamerican fictions which suggest a black alliance with foreign powers in the face of unrelenting racial injustice at home.1 Imperium in Imperio, published in 1899, has been described as "the first political novel" by a black American;2 and "A Man They Didn't Know," appearing in 1913, is probably the first Afroamerican fiction to suggest a specific alliance between American blacks, groups in Mexico, and the Japanese. Sutton E. Griggs is currently undergoing rediscovery, and Imperium in Imperio is by now well known to students of Afroamerican literature, if not to students of American literature in general. However, aspects of the historical context of Imperium in Imperio have been overlooked by literary scholars at significant cost to a complete appreciation of what Griggs is doing in the novel. Corrothers's "A Man They Didn't Know" has been overlooked in all respects. This highly interesting fictional work, comparable in important respects to Griggs's novel, needs to be brought to the attention of students of American culture of various disciplines, and, like Imperium in Imperio, to be fully understood, it must be read in its historical context.
Copyright, ©EES, The National Association for Ethnic Studies, 1983