Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Claudia Jone's Ellis Island Detention Jeremiads: Diasporic Imaginings of 'A More Perfect Union'


Liberal Studies


Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies

Date Range



During Trinidadian-born Claudia Jones s multiple detentions at Ellis Island in the 1950s prior to her 1955 deportation to Great Britain, she protested her incarceration in leftist and African American presses and private correspondences. Her high-profile leadership in the Communist Party of the United States and nationality increased her vulnerability to McCarran Act prosecution. Her fellow prisoners' shared political convictions and disparate origins allow Jones to promote the internationalist, Marxist feminism she advocated in her Daily Worker column Half the World (1948-1955) which connected the struggles and experiences of women in Africa, the Americas, and Asia. Recent works by Mary Helen Washington, Marika Sherwood and Carol Boyce Davies explore long neglected aspects of Jones s feminism and anticolonialism, yet the intersections between her Half A World column and her Ellis Island jeremiads offers additional insight into Jones's complex political imagination and praxis. With some irony, Jones describes her fellow inmates as a virtual United Nations, and located strength in commingling of diverse activists. In this expression of multi-ethnic solidarity, she simultaneously honors Ellis Island as a point of entry sanctified by Emma Lazarus's invitation to a more just society and critiques its oppression of diasporic migrants, particularly women. This presentation traces Jones's transformation of Elli Island's penal colony into This presentation traces Jones's transformation of Ellis Island's penal colony into a political arena in which a mutli-ethnic collective of women organize to protest racism, xenophobia, sexism, prison conditions, and political persecution.

Conference Name

American Studies Association Annual Meeting, "Imagination, Reparation and Transformation"

Conference Location

Baltimore, MD

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