First in the chronological table of world affairs relevant to any argument concerning the black internationalism of the 1930s is the Italo-Ethiopian War. George Samuel Schuyler, then the most prominent black journalist in the United States, stood in for international-minded black Americans at the vanguard of the pro-Ethiopian campaigns.
For all its obvious concerns with issues of black internationalism raised by the Italo-Ethiopian War—and though it gripped the black popular imagination of its time—Schuyler's Black Empire, originally serialized from 1936 to 1938 in the Pittsburgh Courier, has not attracted much attention from modern critics, largely due to the uncomfortably violent racial scenarios it depicts. Yet, as Taketani's essay suggests, to address such seemingly objectionable scenarios is to confront the origins of black internationalism in the race war fantasy that gained global currency in the media surround of the mid-1930s, triggered by the rumored alliance of two colored empire-nations, Ethiopia and Japan.
Black Empire, narrated in the first person by one Carl Slater, ex-reporter for the Harlem Blade, presents a rendition of race war that both participates in and parodies the production of the mediagenic fantasy it reflects in the aftermath of the Italo-Ethiopian War. By allowing the signifying “colored empire” full play in the black imagination, Black Empire affords a deeper understanding of the objectives of mid-1930s black internationalism.