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Antiracism in CubaThe Unfinished Revolution$
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Devyn Spence Benson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781469626727

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469626727.001.0001

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Poor, Black, and a Teacher

Poor, Black, and a Teacher

Loyal Black Revolutionaries and the Literacy Campaign

(p.198) 5 Poor, Black, and a Teacher
Antiracism in Cuba

Devyn Spence Benson

University of North Carolina Press

Chapter 5 returns to domestic struggles and explores the iconization of Conrado Benítez, a murdered volunteer teacher, to reveal how the Cuban state mobilized images of black martyrs to celebrate the resolution of the fight against racial discrimination. Cuban newspapers, literacy campaign publicity, and oral histories from this period demonstrate a shift in revolutionary discourses on race. Revolutionary leaders closed official conversations about racism in 1961 when they proclaimed that the new government had eliminated discrimination and linked continued racism to counterrevolution. The story of Benítez and the way he was used as the figurehead for the literacy campaign epitomizes these shifts. Revolutionary leaders constructed a narrative about Benítez’s life that celebrated the incorporation of black soldiers into the nation while simultaneously limiting black citizenship to loyal and grateful clients of the state. This move shut the metaphorical “door” on debates about racism out of a fear that the issue would be divisive and threaten the national unity needed to defeat threats against the new government like the April 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion by U.S.-supported Miami exiles.

Keywords:   Conrado Benítez, Literacy Campaign, Jesús Menéndez, Patrice Lumumba

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