Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Latin American Studies (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Lillian Manzor - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Ruth Reitan - Committee Member

Third Committee Member

Edmund Abaka - Committee Member


Many black Cubans decided to join the Cuban criollo separatists in their fight for independence from Spain in the late nineteenth century because rebellion seemed to promise a means to end slavery and shake their bonds of second class citizenship. To a large degree this was true as Cuban independence represented a multiracial triumph that ignored race and social status. Racial fraternity quickly faded, though, as the twentieth century began and black Cubans found themselves in the same disadvantaged position as before independence. This essay discusses how racism and limitations on black organization in the early republic dashed any real hopes for social mobility and spurred many Afro-Cubans to seek alternative ways to fight for racial and socioeconomic equality. I will focus on how Afro-Cuban racial awareness and black organization grew following the disappointments of Cuban independence and how the application of the 1910 Morua amendment restricting political organizations and the 1912 massacre of thousands of Afro-Cubans forced black activists to seek less direct means to redress problems of poverty and inequality. Following an analysis of why many black Cubans renounced assimilation and decided to organize based on race, I will discuss the small political space within which Afro-Cubans were able to operate and the various strategies they employed to avoid being labeled as racists and anti-Cuban. These strategies were generally passive in nature, though, and employed racial uplift or regeneracion as a means to become accepted by white society. Considering that many black elites accepted racial uplift as a means to fight for black opportunities and equality, I will evaluate if this strategy served their goals of penetrating white society at the expense of poorer Afro-Cubans. I will also focus on the rare efforts of Juan Rene Betancourt, one of the very few black activists that rejected regeneracion and endorsed black nationalism as the sole means to achieve racial equality in Cuba. The paper will conclude with an analysis of the efficacy of black Cuban organizations to improve the position of blacks in Cuban society leading up to the 1959 revolution and why they were not more successful.


Afro-Cuban; Morua; Regeneracion; Black Nationalism