Constructing Black Selves

Caribbean American Narratives and the Second Generation

318 pages

3 illustrations

November, 2005

ISBN: 9780814756911



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Lisa D. McGill received her doctorate in American Studies at Yale University. She is the principal of LM Strategies Consulting, a diversity and equity consultancy in Illinois.

All books by Lisa Diane McGill

In 1965, the Hart-Cellar Immigration Reform Act ushered in a huge wave of immigrants from across the Caribbean—Jamaicans, Cubans, Haitians, and Dominicans, among others. How have these immigrants and their children negotiated languages of race and ethnicity in American social and cultural politics? As black immigrants, to which America do they assimilate?

Constructing Black Selves explores the cultural production of second-generation Caribbean immigrants in the United States after World War II as a prism for understanding the formation of Caribbean American identity. Lisa D. McGill pays particular attention to music, literature, and film, centering her study around the figures of singer-actor Harry Belafonte, writers Paule Marshall, Audre Lorde, and Piri Thomas, and meringue-hip-hop group Proyecto Uno.

Illuminating the ways in which Caribbean identity has been transformed by mass migration to urban landscapes, as well as the dynamic and sometimes conflicted relationship between Caribbean American and African American cultural politics, Constructing Black Selves is an important contribution to studies of twentieth century U.S. immigration, African American and Afro-Caribbean history and literature, and theories of ethnicity and race.


  • “This book is a welcome addition to the new scholarship on Caribbean migration and in particular to the burgeoning interest in second-generation Caribbeans in America.”

    New West Indian Guide

  • “Moving against the traditional grain of migration scholarship in the United States, McGill forges a compelling cross-sectional dialogue among the languages, discourses, and cultural experiences of native-born and immigrant blacks in the twentieth century.”

    Multicultural Review