In an August 1887 piece for Argentina's La Nación, José Martí took on US racial divisions in a way that remains uncomfortably current. The article covers President Grover Cleveland's recent decision to return the Confederate flag to the South, capped by former Union and Confederate soldiers coming together on the Gettysburg battlefield. But the piece ends on a troubled note. In spite of the movement toward national reconciliation, Martí saw dismaying signs of continued racial division around him, namely in Oak Ridge, Louisiana, where the town mayor and police had set off a rampage of racist violence in response to the cohabitation of a local black man with a white woman (p. 54).

These two gestures—transcending past differences in the service of the nation while recognizing continued inequality—permeate Martí's vast writings on race in the United States. The distance between them...

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