US imperialism of the Philippines at the turn of the last century raised difficult and painful issues for African Americans struggling to gain justice and equal rights in American society. Kelly Miller, an African American academician and active polemicist for Negro rights, wrote in 1900, at the beginning of the Philippine American War, his essay “The Impact of Imperialism on the Negro Race” to exhort his fellow black Americans to oppose the US colonization of the Philippines and to support Philippine independence. Miller saw through the American government’s policy of “benevolent assimilation” toward the Philippines and recognized its racist underpinnings. For Miller the imperialist wars revealed the moral bankruptcy of the American government in violating the principles of the Declaration of Independence and reneging on its promise of equal rights to black Americans. In this essay I will argue that Miller espoused anti-imperialism as an assertion of a morally ascendant black subjectivity. In the face of rabid violent exclusion of blacks in American national life, Miller proposed an alternative narrative of history that contested the white narrative of racial supremacy. African Americans, in remaining loyal to the principles of equality and justice, would suffer so much more but would eventually and inevitably constitute a superior civilization based on moral principles. I will show, however, that like most other black middle class antiracist thinking of his time, Miller’s alternative narrative of black ascendancy was undermined by his acceptance of Western ideological paradigms of civilization and standards of moral superiority. Yet, Miller’s position raises important questions about the discursive “containment” of uplift ideology in the context of the imperialist debates.


Kelly Miller, Philippine American War , US imperialism

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

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Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)