Journal of Cape Verdean Studies


Aminah Pilgrim


Contrary to widely held assumptions about Cape Verdean immigrants in the US – based on oral folklore and early historiography - the population was never "confused" about their collective identity. Individuals and groups of Cape Verdeans wrestled with US racial ideology just as they struggled to make new lives for themselves and their families abroad. The men and women confronted African-American or "black" identity politics from the moment of their arrivals upon these shores, and chose very deliberate strategies for building community, re-inventing their lives and creating pathways for survival and resistance. One exceptional tool for providing others with a window into this complex history is oral history. This article explores the experience of one Cape Verdean activist during what I'm calling the era of revolutions – twenty odd years when the US Civil Rights Movement reached its peak and worldwide Pan-African revolutions took place in countries throughout the African Diaspora including Cape Verde. Through the oral history of Salah Matteos, readers will (1) better understand modern Cape Verdean American history, in other words, the world that many Cape Verdean Americans navigated during these critical years; (2) the reactions to and roles of Cape Verdean Americans in the US Civil Rights and Black Power/Black Arts struggles; (3) the reactions to and roles of US-based Cape Verdeans in the Cabral-led war for Cape Verdean/Guinean independence; and (4) the contributions of Amilcar Cabral to the evolution of "black" politics and African-American identity.