Building Citadels to Preserve Cultural Identity: Fisk University’s Archive and Nigeria’s Citadel Press

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Massey, Gloria Brooke
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Middle Tennessee State University
The transatlantic cultural interaction between African Americans and continental Africans during the 1950s and 60s has been occluded in the popular teaching of American literature and history. My thesis restores international perspective to explore shared aspects of the cultural legacies of both groups in this era. Taking a cultural studies approach, my thesis investigates in historical context the structural parallels between Arna Bontemps' contributions to building an archive of African and African American literature housed at the Fisk University library, where he was head librarian (1943-1964), and the mission of Chinua Achebe and Christopher Okigbo in founding a fledgling Nigeria’s Citadel Press as a literary voice for the new nation (1967-1969). My thesis investigates cultural connections, or more precisely the dialectic, between the literary aspirations of the American Civil rights movement and those of Nigerian nationalism. The cultural dialectic is evident in the efforts of Bontemps and Achebe to exchange, preserve, transmit, and steward their people’s literature by founding institutions to secure ethnic identities and establish repositories of cultural memory, efforts they understood as a necessary part of a larger process of state-building.
Archival studies, Arna Bontemps, Black Arts movement, Chinua Achebe, Nigerian literature, Postcolonial, American literature, African literature, African American studies