Yields new insights by connecting Cold War counter-hegemonic writings in English and French by intellectuals of the African diaspora


Of Vagabonds and Fellow Travelers recovers the history of the writers, artists, and intellectuals of the African diaspora who, witnessing a transition to an American-dominated capitalist world-system during the Cold War, offered searing critiques of burgeoning U.S. hegemony. Cedric R. Tolliver traces this history through an analysis of signal events and texts where African diaspora literary culture intersects with the wider cultural Cold War, from the First Congress of Black Writers and Artists organized by Francophone intellectuals in September 1956 to the reverberations among African American writers and activists to the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. Among Tolliver’s subjects are Caribbean writers Jacques Stephen Alexis, George Lamming, and Aimé Césaire, the black press writing of Alice Childress and Langston Hughes, and the ordeal of Paul Robeson, among other topics. The book’s final chapter highlights the international and domestic consequences of the cultural Cold War and discusses their lingering effects on our contemporary critical predicament.

Cedric R. Tolliver is Associate Professor of English, University of Houston.

​“Expertly bringing Black diaspora studies and critical race theory to bear on the Cold War’s culture wars, Of Vagabonds and Fellow Travelers shows why and how culture became a primary site of imperialist and anticolonial struggle in the U.S., Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean after World War II.  Cedric Tolliver’s study of the institutional, literary, and interpersonal connections between Anglophone and Francophone writers is a tremendous contribution to scholarship on the U.S. left, race radicalism, and postcolonial and African diasporic literature.”
–Cheryl Higashida, University of Colorado

“Exciting and cutting-edge… challenges binary notions of ideological adherence and complicates the political investments that major writers and thinkers of the African diaspora made during the era, as it crosses national and regional boundaries, thereby underscoring the steady communication and flows of influence during this period, beyond linguistic and national parameters.”
–Pim Higginson, University of New Mexico

"In this fascinating and important work, Tolliver (Univ. of Houston) argues that in the capitalist system racial discrimination is inextricably tied to economic exploitation... Highly recommended."

- A. S. Newson-Horst

"Of Vagabonds and Fellow Travelers is everything I look for in a book of academic literary criticism. It is literary history in the best sense, grounded so deeply in archival research that every chapter yields truly original facts and insights. ...The analysis is methodical and persuasive, the writing lucid and incisive. ...Tolliver’s book must now be considered a mandatory read for anyone seeking to understand the pressures that came to bear on Black writers in the mid-twentieth century." 
-Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies

- Shane Graham

"Tolliver's thick (re)description of the history of Black cultural expression in the Cold War political context is both forceful and eloquent. . . Tolliver’s intervention insists on the significance of economics to the production and interpretation of Black literature during the Cold War, but also challenges the field’s upholding of elite liberal racial values."
African American Review

- Samantha Pinto, The University of Texas at Austin

"In truth, Of Vagabonds and Fellow Travelers departs from now-standard accounts of race and culture in the Cold War by treating the transatlantic, multilingual character of Black literary radicalism as a whole way of seeing. When it speaks with genuine freshness, it speaks in cosmopolitan stereo and simultaneous translation."
—William J. Maxwell, American Literary History Online Review

- William J. Maxwell