Radical Moves

Caribbean Migrants and the Politics of Race in the Jazz Age

By Lara Putnam

336 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 11 halftones, 3 maps, 3 tables, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-7285-7
    Published: January 2013
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-3813-6
    Published: January 2013
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4361-6
    Published: January 2013

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Awards & distinctions

Special Mention, Elsa Goveia Book Prize, Association of Caribbean Historians

In the generations after emancipation, hundreds of thousands of African-descended working-class men and women left their homes in the British Caribbean to seek opportunity abroad: in the goldfields of Venezuela and the cane fields of Cuba, the canal construction in Panama, and the bustling city streets of Brooklyn. But in the 1920s and 1930s, racist nativism and a brutal cascade of antiblack immigration laws swept the hemisphere. Facing borders and barriers as never before, Afro-Caribbean migrants rethought allegiances of race, class, and empire. In Radical Moves, Lara Putnam takes readers from tin-roof tropical dancehalls to the elegant black-owned ballrooms of Jazz Age Harlem to trace the roots of the black-internationalist and anticolonial movements that would remake the twentieth century.

From Trinidad to 136th Street, these were years of great dreams and righteous demands. Praying or "jazzing," writing letters to the editor or letters home, Caribbean men and women tried on new ideas about the collective. The popular culture of black internationalism they created--from Marcus Garvey's UNIA to "regge" dances, Rastafarianism, and Joe Louis's worldwide fandom--still echoes in the present.

About the Author

Lara Putnam is associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh and author of The Company They Kept: Migrants and the Politics of Gender in Caribbean Costa Rica, 1870-1960.
For more information about Lara Putnam, visit the Author Page.


"A major work, one that illuminates a region and shows the surprising commonalities between the experiences of those within the United States and its hemispheric neighbors in the years leading up to World War II. The traces of those commonalities resonate into the present day, like a “regge” dance in Port Limón, for those who learn to listen."--Los Angeles Review of Books

"This extraordinarily thoughtful, original, well-researched study is delightfully and engagingly written. . . . Highly recommended. All levels/libraries."--Choice

"Scholars of both the British Caribbean and Latin America are sure to be enthused by Lara Putnam's latest monograph."--The Americas

"Radical Moves is splendid, engagingly written, and keenly researched."--Journal of American History

“Both an enjoyable read and a very important book.”--American Historical Review

“Putnam’s greatest contribution comes from her ability to bring seemingly disparate stories together to tell a transnational history of migration, racism, and everyday resistance.”-Hispanic American Historical Review