Gilroy was not the first scholar to stress the importance of understanding race as a phenomenon that both emerged and was resisted transnationally. Scholars like W. E. B. Du Bois, Eric Williams, and C. L. R. James and Frantz Fanon examined the ways in which slavery and racism were pivotal to the formation of Western modernity. These scholars focused not only on the economic importance of Atlantic slavery to the formation of the West but also on the ways in which blackness was absolutely necessary for the construction of whiteness as an identity. Du Bois and James were also concerned to document the myriad ways in which the black diaspora communities, in their attempts to construct artistic and aesthetic responses to racism, played a critical part in developing the cultural institutions of the West.
Scholars connected with the negritude movement echoed their efforts, focusing on the unique cultural contributions that they attributed to the so-called African personality. Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka) likewise pioneered the study of the music of the African diaspora, documenting the various ways in which it allowed for the articulation of a complex, albeit nontextual, response to racism. Scholars like Stuart Hall, who brought the insights of Du Bois and Williams to bear on British cultural studies, further developed these ideas. Hall was particularly instrumental in developing an approach to the study of race and culture which sought to understand race as an ideological system which should be analyzed in its political, social, and economic dimensions and black culture as simultaneously heterogeneous and connected.