Freedom’s Stock: Political Consumerism, Transnational Blackness and the Black Star Line

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Little attention has been given to the unique social-historical context driving the political consumerism, meaning making, and experiences of African Americans. Even less attention has been given to the long tradition of African American political consumerism in the USA. Reevaluating the Universal Negro Improvement Association’s Black Star Line as one of the largest and most audacious displays of massive black American transnational political consumerism, this article investigates how a more inclusive construction of blackness impacted the ways in which African Americans accessed political activism, specifically racialized political consumerism (RPC). This article engages political consumption theory as well as pan-Africanist frameworks to explain what shaped such political mobilization and to explore the unique ways in which political consumerism was employed. It concludes that race was used explicitly to mobilize people around political consumerism and that conceptualizations of race shaped how consumerism was executed, arguing that while RPC was effective in mobilizing groups, it was unsuccessful in leading to sustained improvement in the conditions of African Americans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-248
Number of pages12
JournalCritical Sociology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 15 2015


  • Black Star Line
  • Garvey
  • racialized political consumerism
  • transnational blackness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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