Esperanto USA 2010 Congress (4): “Esperanto, Washington, & the World in 1910”

Ralph Dumain: “Esperanto, Washington, and the World in 1910” /
“Esperanto, Vaŝingtono, kaj la Mondo en 1910”

58th National Congress of Esperanto USA (Bethesda, MD, May 28-31, 2010) /
58-a Landa Kongreso de Esperanto USA

On May 30 I delivered my talk on this topic in Esperanto, with the assistance of Verlette Simon, who coordinated my accompanying “slide show.” This talk is part of a larger research effort to analyze the American Esperanto movement of a century ago with a view to the broader social forces that converged on Washington in 1910, as my way of commemorating this centennial and the Zamenhof sesquicentennial. (1)

I briefly enumerated a number of relevant perspectives: diplomacy, science and technology, commerce, labor, women’s rights, religion and freethought, Latin America, European and American Jews and Zamenhof’s own Eastern European Jewish perspective, and the general ethos of optimistic prospects on the threshold of the 20th century which began with epochal scientific and technological breakthroughs. My talk took off from a contrast between Zamenhof’s famous “Land of Liberty” speech and the reality of Jim Crow Washington, and culminated in the hitherto unexplored African-American perspective.

Most noteworthy is the contrast between our national congress of 2010—which could have gone unnoticed by the wider world were it not for the luck of being briefly spotlighted by National Public Radio (2)—and the 1910 International Congress, which was the subject of daily headline news in four Washington newspapers, as well as reportage by newspapers around the nation. My “slide show” was comprised largely of clippings from the Washington Herald and Washington Times, which reveal the range of activities of the Congress, including the performance of Shakespeare’s As You Like It in Esperanto and the use of Esperanto in a major league baseball game, as well as the serious attention given to Esperanto by diplomats, heads of state, government representatives, and a major American labor leader.

Then I sprang the aspect of my project of greatest personal interest: my attempt to document the reportage of Esperanto and international languages in the black press and my quest for the unknown history of black participation in the Esperanto movement. My most significant find here was William Pickens, who surfaced as an advocate of Esperanto in 1906 and who later became an eminent professor and college administrator and leader in the civil rights movement of the time. There’s a further linkage to the contemporary poet Elizabeth Alexander, who writes of Pickens in a poem as the “first Afro-American Esperantist” and who delivered on the steps of the Capitol the commemorative poem she wrote for the inauguration of President Obama! Who could have foreseen such an event in 1910?

I followed up this presentation with an hour-long radio program in Buffalo, NY, on June 7, in which I summarized this talk, added remarks on likely reasons for Zamenhof’s perspective on the United States, and recited my three Esperanto translations of poems by William Blake which I had recited in the “Poezia Rondo” which also transpired at the Esperanto Congress. (3)

(1) See my web-based project at http://autodidactproject.org/esperanto2010/intro.html.

(2) See "Marking the Centennial of Esperanto Creator's Visit" by Art Silverman, "All Things Considered", National Public Radio, Tuesday 25 May 2010, 5:55 pm EDT
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?verified=true&storyId=127118219#commentBlock, from where you can listen to or download the audio broadcast itself.

(3) The summary can be found on the Think Twice Radio site: http://www.thinktwiceradio.com/sound-clips/sound-clips.html. The mp3 audio clip itself can be found at http://www.thinktwiceradio.com/sound-clips/audio/100607.mp3. On the same page as the program description you will find a link to a program from May 10 in which I briefly discuss the upcoming national Esperanto congress.

1 comment:

Ralph Dumain said...

Think Twice Radio Broadcast, 7 June 2010: Summary:

00:00 - 03:00 min: Introduction (May conference, Think Twice Radio, NPR, Zamenhof + Esperanto: introduction, 1910 conference)

03:00 – 05:30: 1910 headline news, highlights of 1910 conference

05:30 - 06:30: Auxlang important at that time; philosophical pre-history

06:30 – 09:30: Volapuk, background to Esperanto-movement, 1905 French conference, Zamenhof’s issues

09:30 – 12:15: 1910 Congress: lando de libereco, Jim Crow DC

12:15 - 14:00: perspectives: diplomacy, science & technology, commerce, business, Latin America, Zamenhof + Eastern European Jews, Morrison/labor, Hankel/feminism, religion + freethought

14:00 min - 23:00: black press & William Pickens

23:00 - 36:00: Blake translations

39:00 - 49:00 min.: Zamenhof’s ideology, Jewish background