“Unidentified Group Portrait, Ghana,” photographer
unknown, ca. 1915.
In a new article published this month in the American Historical Review, Carina Ray explores the connections between racialized sexual exploitation and anti-colonial nationalism.
While sifting through tattered copies of The Gold Coaster Leader, colonial Ghana’s most politically radical early twentieth-century African-owned newspaper, Ray stumbled upon a column provocatively titled “Immoral Sanitation.” The short article packed quite a punch. In it, white men were accused of sexually exploiting the colony’s young women and threatening the moral fabric of African society. With the help of Rachel Welsh, who recently completed her MA in History at Fordham, Ray undertook a comprehensive survey of the Leader’s thirty year print run and soon discovered that the column was one of many commentaries that appeared in the newspaper during 1919 and 1920 that challenged conventional colonial thinking about the locus of sexual threat in the colonies. At a moment when press reports in diverse corners of the globe were rife with tales about the alleged sexual threat black men posed to white women, the proverbial Black Peril, Gold Coast writers turned this tale on its head by asserting that white men were the real sexual menace.
Carina Ray speaks about the reception of US power in Africa at History Day 2013
Currently, Ray is teaching a course entitled”Assassination: a History of Post-Independence Africa” and “Race, Sex, and Colonialism.” This summer, she will be teaching a summer course in London entitled “Archiving Africa” (the course is now enrolling, and more information on joining the course is available here). Next year, she will be offering two UHC courses “Africa and the Black Atlantic” as well as the elective “20th Century African Icons” and the service learning course “The African City.”