Sutton Elbert Griggs (1872–1933) wrote the first major African-American political novel, Imperium in Imperio (1899). Imperium is a utopian novel and the first novel to represent the New Negro. This article argues that the novel’s protagonist, Belton Piedmont, is Griggs’s unflawed utopian exemplar of the New Negro, that Griggs draws on nineteenth-century Anglo-Saxonist discourse to construct his characters Belton and Bernard, and that Griggs employs a system of binaries that demands that the New Negro choose which kind of Anglo-Saxon to become. In Imperium Griggs shows that the Anglo-Saxon is the Negro’s cultural father and that by imitating the best qualities of the Anglo-Saxon, the Negro could be lifted up. Such imitation should not detract from Griggs’s black nationalist credentials. Griggs was a committed intellectual who attempted to use the master’s tools (Anglo-Saxonism) to restructure the master’s house (white supremacy) and build an annex (the Anglo-Saxon New Negro).
The Anglo-Saxon New Negro: Sutton E. Griggs’s Anglo-Saxonism and the Quest for Cultural Paternity in Imperium in Imperio (1899)
WILLIAM TAMPLIN is a PhD candidate in comparative literature at Harvard University. He is the author of Poet of Jordan: The Political Poetry of Muhammad Fanatil al-Hajaya (2018). His dissertation is on apocalypticism in the modern Arabic novel.
William Tamplin; The Anglo-Saxon New Negro: Sutton E. Griggs’s Anglo-Saxonism and the Quest for Cultural Paternity in Imperium in Imperio (1899). Utopian Studies 1 March 2020; 31 (1): 97–117. doi: https://doi.org/10.5325/utopianstudies.31.1.0097
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