He Died With His Fro On


An interesting little fact from The Guardian: Lawrence Dennis, one of the leading exponents of fascism in 1930s and '40s America, was a black man passing as white.

That isn't as ironic as it sounds. While I've never read any of Dennis' work, I have read the discussion of him in Ronald Radosh's Prophets on the Right, and Radosh says racism really wasn't a part of Dennis' brand of fascism. Indeed, his "fascism" was a quirky construct that doesn't match most modern uses of the word—by Radosh's account, he essentially felt the country was plunging inevitably into a fascist future, and he wanted to make sure we embraced a "good fascism" instead of a bad one. Some of this comes through in the Guardian piece, though in general its portrait of Dennis is very different than Radosh's.

Dennis wasn't the only black writer to flirt with fascism in the '30s. Here's Marcus Garvey bragging in 1937: "We were the first Fascists. When we had 100,000 disciplined men, and were training children, Mussolini was still an unknown. Mussolini copied our Fascism."

Bonus quote from the Guardian story:

In what may have been his most audacious act of defiance, or evidence that he had finally given up the pretence, [Dennis] eventually let his hair grow out. When he died, in obscurity, in 1977, he did so with an afro.