January 31, 2012

I have written a brief profile of J.J. Singh, using the new resources I found either at the Library of Congress or in the NAACP Papers. Because I’m so excited by my research, I’ve been a bit overenthusiastic in including it in this profile, so the piece will need some further refining. The citations aren’t all completed yet either. My basic argument in the profile is that although the media portrayed Singh as a sort of individual crusader, a single voice advocating for India, in actuality, Singh’s greatest strength was his ability to build lasting relationships (especially with leading Americans), which helped advance the goals of the India Lobby. The members of the India League, therefore, reflect Singh’s consciousness of the growing liberal trend of internationalism, and his efforts to place India’s fight for independence in the midst of this emerging coalition. I’m not really sure where I will incorporate this profile into my actual thesis chapters, since it’s not a chronological description of Singh, but I found it beneficial just to write and get some ideas down of paper. Perhaps I will end up breaking it into pieces.

I’ve been spending some time developing a better understanding of the historiography of scholarship that connects the black civil rights movement and Indian nationalism in America during the 1940s. In addition to Plummer’s, A Rising Wind, and the Nico Slate book (which was published this month), Professor Sweeney tipped me off to Gerald Horne’s book, The End of Empires: African Americans and India (2008), which contains helpful endnotes. For example, Horne cites a poll reported in the Pittsburgh Courier: “in a October 1942 survey of 10,000 black Americans 87.8 percent ‘responded with a loud ‘yes’ to the question ‘do you believe that India should continue to contend for her rights and her liberty now?'” which would be interesting to compare to Hess’ opinion polls (171).  All of these texts treat the connection between African American activism and Indian nationalism in a much broader historical context than what I will be addressing, but I think it is significant that this is the only body of scholarship that I have found which draws distinct attention to the efforts of the India Lobby in the United States.

I’ve also begun to tackle my chronological narrative chapters starting, using the Atlantic Charter as my most significant starting point. I’m still trying to figure out how much background I need to include before I get into my focused time period (1941-1945). For example, Professor Borges drew attention to the Indian immigrants on the West Coast, who in the 1910s began the first organizations (most significantly, the Ghadar Party) with an Indian nationalist agenda in the United States. While I continue to work on that issue, I’ve been spending some time in FRUS, and other primary sources from policy officials that address the Atlantic Charter. By starting with the Atlantic Charter and ending with the U.N. Conference, I’m framing my chronology between two distinct expressions of internationalism. Both reflect the kind of idealism previously expressed in Wilson’s 14 Points and Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms, but the principles of the Atlantic Charter quickly gave way to the “realities” of world war and immediate military national interests, as demonstrated by Churchill’s redefinition of article 3 and official American interest in India following Pearl Harbor. In contrast, the U.N. Conference shows the beginning of concrete commitment or a realization of the principles of internationalism. I’ve also done quick full-text search of FRUS to see how often the Atlantic Charter was referred to during this period.

To answer a few questions brought up in last week’s meeting, Singh’s sons’ names are Man Mohan and Man Jit Singh, who were 14 and 11 years old in 1967. The biographical sketch included in Singh’s 70th birthday celebratory magazine claims that: “it was because of the birth of these two boys that J.J. Singh decided to leave New York and come back to India. He wanted his sons to be brought up purely as Indian citizens and not have dual loyalties” (3). This last sentence seems out of character for Singh.

Going back to a question raised in my December 1 presentation, there was an organization called the “India League of London,” which was not organizationally connected to the India League of America. Singh was in correspondence with its general-secretary V.K. Krishna Menon, who in 1946, Singh described as Nehru’s “personal representative” (quoted in Horne, 181).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.