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UnAfrican Americans

UnAfrican Americans: Nineteenth-Century Black Nationalists and the Civilizing Mission

Tunde Adeleke
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    UnAfrican Americans
    Book Description:

    Though many scholars will acknowledge the Anglo-Saxon character of black American nationalism, few have dealt with the imperialistic ramifications of this connection. Now, Nigerian-born scholar Tunde Adeleke reexamines nineteenth-century black American nationalism, finding not only that it embodied the racist and paternalistic values of Euro-American culture but also that nationalism played an active role in justifying Europe's intrusion into Africa.

    Adeleke looks at the life and work of Martin Delany, Alexander Crummell, and Harry McNeal Turner, demonstrating that as supporters of the mission civilisatrice ("civilizing mission") these men helped lay the foundation for the colonization of Africa. By exposing the imperialistic character of nineteenth-century black American nationalism, Adeleke reveals a deep historical and cultural divide between Africa and the black diaspora. Black American nationalists had a clear preference--Euro-America over Africa--and their plans were not designed for the immediate benefit of Africans but to enhance their own fortunes. Arguing that these men held a strong desire for cultural affinity with Europe, Adeleke makes a controversial addition to the ongoing debate concerning the roots of black nationalism and Pan-Africanism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5753-5
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction: Black American Nationalism: Definition, Background, Concepts
    (pp. 1-12)

    In hisNations and Nationalism, Ernest Gellner defines nationalism as “primarily a political principle, which holds that the political and the national unit should be congruent.”¹ Nationalist sentiments and movements have historically evolved in response to the lack of this congruence. The existence of national harmony or disharmony is often influenced and sustained by an assortment of economic, social, political, and cultural factors. The lack of a correspondence between a political unit and its constituent nations is unmistakably the defining character of an oppressive and dysfunctional polity. Wherever one confronts this disharmonious and oppressive context, one is most likely to...

  6. 1 The Cultural Context of Black Nationalism: Racist Ideology and the Civilizing Mission
    (pp. 13-30)

    An informed and holistic study of black American nationalism in the second half of the nineteenth century has to begin with an understanding of the ideological and cultural context that both inspired and shaped its core ideas and programs. This nationalism developed within the broader Euro-American cultural nationalism, flowering contemporaneously with the latter, albeit in reaction and opposition to it. Black nationalism evolved out of the context and ramifications of the historic encounter between Europe and Africa. Over time, black American nationalists appropriated the values and idiosyncracies that distinguished Euro-American nationalism and expansionism. In spite of this intimate connection, scholars...

  7. 2 The Historical Context of Black Nationalism: The Quest for American Nationality
    (pp. 31-42)

    Black American national consciousness, Bill McAdoo contends, “has deep roots in the historical existence of the black masses in this country.”¹ Few will disagree with McAdoo’s contention. In fact, many critics trace this deep-rooted historical consciousness back to slavery. In the words of one leading authority, “Slavery was, in a sense, the cause of black nationalism.”² The traumatic and dehumanizing experience of slavery, even with the denial and negation of the history, culture, and nationality of blacks, failed to completely “denationalize” the consciousness of blacks. Paradoxically, the more blacks were demeaned and alienated, the stronger their national consciousness grew. Regardless...

  8. 3 Martin Robison Delany: The Economic and Cultural Contexts of Imperialism
    (pp. 43-69)

    The ideal personality to begin this study with is Martin Delany (1812-85), described as “the father of black American nationalism,” the ideological godfather of black radicalism, one who unequivocally and uncompromisingly stood in defense of black American and African interests.¹ To his nineteenth-century peers, Delany embodied the quintessence of black nationalist thought. Frederick Douglass once described him as “the intensest embodiment of black nationality to be met with outside of the valley of the Niger.”² Indeed, few black American nationalists of the epoch articulated black nationalist and Pan-African ideologies as forcefully and as effectively as Delany. Little wonder then that...

  9. 4 Alexander Crummell: Religious, Moral, and Cultural Legitimation of Imperialism
    (pp. 70-91)

    Alexander Crummell (1819-98) shared similar disillusionment with Delany over the deteriorating condition of black Americans, and he too developed a consuming desire to assist in effecting change. Born a free black in New York, young Alexander imbibed a strong African consciousness from his parents. His grandfather was a chief of the Tiammanee people, and his father was a prince. His father, Boston Crummell, was as proud of his American connection as he was of his African ancestry and vowed never to voluntarily relinquish his American identity. Young Alexander grew up in a circle of blacks who, like his father, grappled...

  10. 5 Henry McNeal Turner: The Cultural Imperative of Imperialism
    (pp. 92-110)

    Henry McNeal Turner (1834-1915) was born in Newberry, South Carolina. His slave mother, who was said to have been the daughter of an “African king,” was freed by the British during the Revolution. His father, of whom we know little, died when Turner was very young. Although born free, Henry, like most other free blacks, suffered the indignities and abuses that racism bred. Nevertheless, he remained optimistic and integration-minded, believing in the inevitability of change. After his mother moved to Abbeville, South Carolina, Henry began working as a servant in a law office there. It was in Abbeville that he...

  11. 6 Black American Nationalism and Africa: Ambivalence and Paradoxes
    (pp. 111-152)

    The golden age of black American nationalism was also the apogee of European nationalism. Although products of fundamentally different sets of circumstances, both varieties of nationalism paradoxically converged on the same spot—Africa. European nationalism unleashed expansionist ambitions that directed Europeans toward Africa. Black American nationalism also nudged black Americans toward Africa in search of a black nationality that, many hoped, would combat the growing and threatening tide of European nationalism and imperialism. In the end, however, the force that unleashed the quest for a black nationality succumbed to, and was absorbed into, the more powerful force of European nationalism....

  12. Notes
    (pp. 153-165)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 166-182)
  14. Index
    (pp. 183-194)