When President Trump talked of Africa as a continent of “shithole countries” where people lived in huts, he was drawing on a set of ideas made popular in the 19th century. “Darkest Africa” became a favorite trope of explorers like Henry Morton Stanley who promoted his books and lectures by pushing the idea of Africa as a dark place – a phrase that had all kinds of meanings – racial, intellectual, geographical.
Today I speak with Jeannette Eileen Jones
, author of In Search of Brightest Africa, Reimagining the Dark Continent in American Culture, 1884-1936
(University of Georgia Press, 2011). Jones talks about the many different groups, from naturalists and conservationists to African American artists and intellectuals, who begin to recast Africa in the America imagination in the early 20th century. Jones is associate professor of history and ethnic studies at University of Nebraska Lincoln.
Michael F. Robinson is professor of history at Hillyer College, University of Hartford. He's the author of
The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2006) and
The Lost White Tribe: Scientists, Explorers, and the Theory that Changed a Continent (Oxford University Press, 2016). He's also the host of the podcast Time to Eat the Dogs, a weekly podcast about science, history, and exploration.