Cross-Border Cosmopolitans

The Making of a Pan-African North America

By Wendell Nii Laryea Adjetey

424 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 21 halftones, 4 maps, 7 tables, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7211-3
    Published: January 2023
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6992-2
    Published: January 2023
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-6993-9
    Published: December 2022
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5987-7
    Published: December 2022

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit

Awards & distinctions

2024 Best Scholarly Book in Canadian Studies Prize, Canadian Historical Association

Honorable Mention, 2024 Frederick Jackson Turner Award, Organization of American Historians

Finalist, 2024 Association for the Study of African American Life and History Book Prize

Finalist, 2024 Best Scholarly Book in Canadian History Prize, Canadian Historical Association

African American history from 1900 to 2000 cannot be told without accounting for the significant influence of Pan-African thought, just as the story of twentieth-century U.S. foreign policy cannot be told without accounting for fears of an African World. In the early 1900s, Marcus Garvey and his followers perceived the North American mainland, particularly Canada following U.S. authorities' deportation of Garvey to Jamaica, as a forward-operating base from which to liberate the Black masses from colonialism. After World War II, Vietnam War resisters, Black Panthers, and Caribbean students joined the throngs of cross-border migrants to denounce militarism, imperialism, and capitalism. In time, as urban uprisings proliferated in northern U.S. cities, the prospect of coalitions among the Black Power, Red Power, and Quebecois Power movements inspired U.S. and Canadian intelligence services to collaborate, infiltrate, and sabotage Black organizations across North America. Assassinations of "Black messiahs" further radicalized revolutionaries, rekindling the dream for an African World from Washington, D.C., to Toronto to San Francisco to Antigua to Grenada and back to Africa. Alarmed, Washington's national security elites invoked the Cold War as the reason to counter the triangulation of Black Power in the Atlantic World, funneling arms clandestinely from the United States and Canada to the Caribbean and then to its proxies in southern Africa.

By contending that twentieth-century global Black liberation movements began within the U.S.-Canadian borderlands as cross-border, continental struggles, Cross-Border Cosmopolitans reveals the revolutionary legacies of the Underground Railroad and America's Great Migration and the hemispheric and transatlantic dimensions of this history.

About the Author

Wendell Nii Laryea Adjetey is assistant professor of post-Reconstruction U.S. and African Diaspora history at McGill University, where he holds the William Dawson Chair. He also goes by Nii Laryea Osabu I, Atrékor Wé Oblahii kè Oblayéé Mantsè.
For more information about Wendell Nii Laryea Adjetey, visit the Author Page.


"An important book . . . Timely and essential given the narrow and almost ubiquitous emphasis on black victimization in contemporary public discourses. The book’s perspective . . . positions itself as a valuable methodological option for crafting and telling the history of diasporic Blacks in different parts of the world, and for approaching the study of civil rights, independence, and revolutionary movements."—Ethnic and Racial Studies

"A substantial contribution to the growing historiographic body on Black Internationalism, transnational Black activism, and Black Power movements in the twentieth century. . . . [Adjetey] employs the biographies of remarkable activists to paint a complex panorama of twentieth-century Pan-Africanisms and is an important addition to African Diasporic, Atlantic, and transnational histories."—Western Historical Quarterly

"Sophisticated, ambitious, and compellingly argued . . . Cross-Border Cosmopolitans shows the many ways in which Black people across the Canada-US borderlands developed communities, pursued international interests, and fought for opportunity that transcended national borders. The book amounts to an expansive reconceptualization of Black Power across the broad swath of a continent."—CHOICE

"Wendell Nii Laryea Adjetey's Cross-Border Cosmopolitans: The Making of a Pan-African North America is an impressive study of Pan-Africanism and the Black Power movement in twentieth-century North America. Adjetey succeeds in placing African Canadians, West Indians, and African Americans into a single frame of analysis, as he demonstrates the ways in which developments in North America, the Caribbean, and South Africa were multidirectional in impact and consequence. A signal achievement, Cross-Border Cosmopolitans is as welcome as it is sorely needed."—Michael Gomez, New York University

"Stressing transborder mobility as an enduring characteristic of Black life in the borderland nexus of Canada and the United States, Adjetey deftly argues that Black people's transborder movements engendered a kind of 'interspatial citizenship' that reflected a lasting search for security, belonging, and a sense of home. A fascinating and original examination of the transnational orientation and border-crossing practices of 'African North Americans' in the long twentieth century."—Russell Rickford, author of We Are an African People: Independent Education, Black Power, and the Radical Imagination

"This powerful book pays a deserving homage to the architects of and transnational actors in the imagination and pursuit of a collective Black world in the complicated affairs of the twentieth century, revealing with clarity and eloquence the depth of activism and the seriousness of struggles to confront domination, exploitation, and colonization. The far-reaching impact of movements, migrations, and border crossings are cogently analyzed to provide the context for understanding vibrant organizations that demanded freedom, justice, and liberation."—Toyin Falola, the University of Texas at Austin