SURF

Chryl Corbin

The First Generation: West Indian Immigrant Contributions to African American Freedom Struggles

The Naturalization Act of 1870 ushered in a wave of immigration during the turn of the 20th century which included many from the West Indies. While they sought the same opportunities as their European counterparts they often suffered from, and organized against, discrimination and Jim Crow segregation. Thus as activists, intellectuals, and parents, these immigrants paved the way for their children who went on to become such civil rights pioneers as W.E.B. DuBois, James Weldon Johnson, Shirley Chisholm, and Malcolm X. My research illuminates how these often overlooked immigrants helped sow the seeds of the Civil Rights Movement, by connecting their politics to those of their more well-known first generation American children.

Message to Sponsor

SURF has granted me a unique opportunity to study the lesser known history of the West Indian immigrants' contribution to the United States. As a first generation American of West Indian parentage this project holds personal value to me and has allowed me to explore the communities that have cultivated me. As my study acknowledges the connections of these foreign-born Blacks who significantly affected the political and cultural landscape of cities like Harlem, New York. It also reframes Harlem from merely an African-American city to an international Mecca of the African Diaspora, as it adds to the story of America as a country built by immigrants.
  • Major: African American Studies, Mass Communications
  • Mentor: Waldo Martin, History