Advanced Search

Roosevelt, Eleanor, her copy) Robeson, Eslanda Goode.

African Journey.

Book

Inscribed to ER by Eslanda Goode Robeson
[Roosevelt, Eleanor]. Robeson, Eslanda Goode. African Journey. With 64 pages of illustrations. New York: The John Day Company, (1945).
8vo.; endpapers faintly browned; maroon cloth; spine stamped in gilt; corners bumped; pictorial dust-jacket printed in various colors, with a photograph of Robeson on the lower cover, tape repaired; spine and corners chipped. In a specially made quarter-morocco slipcase.
First edition; second printing; with 64 pages of photographic illustrations printed on coated paper. A presentation copy, inscribed on the front endpaper: For Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt/with respectful thanks for her consistent sympathetic interest/in us all/ Sincerely/Eslanda Goode Robeson. Robeson was, mostly likely, acquainted with Roosevelt through her political activism and her work at the United Nations. From Eleanor Roosevelt's library; with her bookplate and a library sticker labeled, "Estate of Eleanor Roosevelt/No. 727/Hyde Park, N.Y." on the front pastedown.
Dust-jacket prints a short biography of Robeson and an explanation for her trip on the upper flap, and book reviews on the lower flap. The upper flap prints: "As part of her field work she went to Africa in 1936 taking her son, then eight years old. While there she kept a lively journal and took many photographs. Since her return she has continued her studies. Now she publishes the pertinent sections of her journal, with new material added bringing facts down to date." The rest of the explanation merits quoting in full:
The unusual value of this book is that it shows Africa through the eyes of an American Negro. Mrs. Robeson is glad and proud to be a Negro. She is conscious, as millions of other Americans are, of roots running back to an "old country" across the seas. She is aware, too, that the Negro problem is not only the problem of the 13 million Negroes in America, but also the far greater problem of the 150 million Africans in Africa - and is linked with the problem of India and China, and with those of minorities everywhere.  
With this large view, she went to South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Congo. She visited African kings and British governors, villages, gold mines, plantations,  Pygmies, herdswomen, modern African leaders. No white visitor could have seen and heard what she saw and heard, or could of told as she does. And often the page is vivid with the flash of a thing seen freshly by the wide, keen eyes of her young son.
Today Africa is coming into focus before the world. For the first time since the penetration of that "darkest" land, the peoples of the world have to take account of the people of Africa. That is Mrs. Robeson's challenge, and she offers rich, human material for all of them to learn by.
As the review by John Latouche from the Saturday Review of Literature asserts, "Eslanda Robeson's journal appears at exactly the right moment….In this warmly personal account she has foreshadowed the mounting crisis in formerly remote regions now vital in the postwar world pattern…The informal nature of Mrs. Robeson's style helps lighten what might otherwise be a rather grim business."
Robeson's travelogue encompassed the three months she spent in Africa in the summer of 1936. In her Preface, she describes the events that led up to her decision to make the trip. She includes a short dialogue that illuminates how whites defined and categorized people under a white "European" model; an unfortunate picture of race relations:
I soon became fed up with the white students and teachers "interpreting" the Negro mind and character to me. Especially when I felt, as I did very often, that their interpretation was wrong.
It went something like this: Me, I am a Negro, I know what we think, how we feel. I know this means that, and that means so-and-so.
"Ah, no, my dear, you're wrong. You see, you are European. You can't possibly know how the primitive mind works until you study it, as we have done."
"What do you mean I am European? I'm Negro. I'm African myself. I'm what you call primitive. I have studied my mind, our minds. How dare you call me European!"
"No, you're not primitive, my dear," they told me patiently, tolerantly, "you're educated and cultured, like us." (pp. 14-15)
Robeson (1896-1965) was born in Washington, D.C. She married Paul Robeson in 1921; and had a son, Pauli, in 1927. She held degrees from the University of Chicago, London University and London School of Economics, and also attended the Hartford Theological Seminary. She was a "Jill-of-all-trades" - just as much as her husband was a "Jack" - who worked variously as an anthropologist, journalist, lecturer, surgical technician and chemist, business manager for her husband and a United Nations correspondent. Other writings of hers are Paul Robeson (1930); American Argument (with Pearl S. Buck, 1949); and A Day at a Time: The Diary Literature of American Women from 1764 to the Present (published posthumously in 1985).
Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2006. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center, Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2006. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC.
(#9185)

© 2011-2017 Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, Inc. All Rights Reserved.