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Classical Black Nationalism

Classical Black Nationalism: From the American Revolution to Marcus Garvey

Edited by Wilson Jeremiah Moses
Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 257
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  • Book Info
    Classical Black Nationalism
    Book Description:

    Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in modern black nationalist leaders such as Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X. But what of the ideological precursors to these modern leaders, the writers, and leaders from whose intellectual legacy modern black nationalism emerged? Wilson Jeramiah Moses, whom the Village Voice called one of the foremost historians of black nationalism, has here collected the most influential speeches, articles, and letters that inform the intellectual underpinnings of contemporary black nationalism, returning our focus to black nationalism at its inception. The goal of early black nationalists was the return of the African-American population to Africa to create a sovereign nation-state and to formulate an ideological basis for a concept of national culture. Most early black nationalists believed that this return was directed by the hand of God. Moses examines the evolution of black nationalist thought through several phases, from its proto-nationalisic phase in the late 1700s through a hiatus in the 1830s, through its flourishing in the 1850s, its eventual eclipse in the 1870s, and its resurgence in the Garvey movement of the 1920s. Moses provides us with documents that illustrate the motivations of both whites and blacks as they sought the removal of the black population. We hear from Thomas Jefferson, who held that it was self-evident that black and white populations could not intermingle on an equal basis or merge to form one happy society, and who toyed with the idea of a mass deportation of the black American population. We see that the profit motive is an important motive behind any nationalist movement in the letters between African American capitalists Paul Cuffe and James Forten. Among the more difficult selections to classify in this collection, Robert Alexander Young's Ethiopian Manifesto prophesied the coming of a prophetic liberator of the African race. The Christian nature of nineteenth century black nationalism is evident in Blyden's The Call of Providence. Moses rounds out the volume with contributions from more well- known voices such as those of Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Dubois, and others. Classical Black Nationalism will serve as a point of departure for anyone interested in gaining a foundational knowledge of the disparate voices behind this often discussed but seldom understood movement.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-5983-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-42)

    “Black nationalism,” “Afrocentrism,” and “Pan-Africanism” are terms widely in use on college campuses today, but few students realize that these concepts had their origins in documents dating as far back as the American Revolutionary period. The purpose of this volume is to offer an introduction to these documents, and to chart the origins of these concepts. Classical black nationalism is defined here as an ideology whose goal was the creation of an autonomous black nation-state, with definite geographical boundaries—usually in Africa. Classical black nationalism originated in the 1700s, reached its first peak in the 1850s, underwent a decline toward...

  5. One The Colonization and Emigration Controversy, Preclassical Period.

    • 1 From Notes on the State of Virginia (1781–82)
      (pp. 45-47)
      Thomas Jefferson

      To emancipate all slaves born after passing the act. The bill reported by the revisors does not itself contain this proposition; but an amendment containing it was prepared, to be offered to the legislature whenever the bill should be taken up, and further directing, that they should continue with their parents to a certain age, then be brought up, at the public expence to tillage, arts or sciences, according to their geniusses, till the females should be eighteen, and the males twenty-one years of age, when they should be colonized to such place as the circumstances of the time should...

    • 2 Letters to Peter Williams Jr. (1816) and James Forten (1817)
      (pp. 48-49)
      Paul Cuffe

      Westport 30 August 1816

      Esteemed friend Peter Williams, Jr.—In consequence of what thee mentioned, (viz.) that we the people of color might establish a mercantile line of business from the United States to Africa, etc., should this still be your mind and you propose to carry it into effect this fall, we have no time to lose. After consulting thyself and friends, please to inform me your resolution. As, also the price of prime tobacco, soap, candles, as also what size vessel would be most advantageous, and such circumstances as may occur. To the view of your mind


    • 3 Letter to Paul Cuffe (1817)
      (pp. 50-52)
      James Forten

      Philad. January 25th 1817

      Esteemed friend—Permit me to inform you that I received your friendly letter by post informing me of you and family good state of health through the blessing of Divine Providence.

      In my last letter to you I mention my intention of writing you again very shortly on account of Anthony Servance’s property, the sale of which I expected would have taken place in the course of a day or two. But to our utter disappointment we could not get a single bid for it. Indeed, I am very much afraid that the ground rent will...

    • 4 Mutability of Human Affairs (1827)
      (pp. 53-59)

      During a recent visit to the Egyptian Mummy, my thoughts were insensibly carried back to former times, when Egypt was in her splendor, and the only seat of chivalry, science, arts and civilization. As a descendant of Cush, I could not but mourn over her present degradation, while reflecting upon the mutability of human affairs, and upon the present condition of a people, who, for more than one thousand years, were the most civilized and enlightened.

      My heart sickened as I pondered upon the picture which my imagination had drawn.—Like Marius surveying the ruins of Carthage, I wept over...

    • 5 The Ethiopian Manifesto (1829)
      (pp. 60-67)
      Robert Alexander Young

      By the Omnipotent will of God, we, Rednaxela, sage, and asserter to the Ethiopian of his rights, do hereby declare, and make known, as follows:—

      Ethiopians! the power of Divinity having within us, as man, implanted a sense of the due and prerogatives belonging to you, a people, of whom we were of your race, in part born, as a mirror we trust, to reflect to you from a review of ourselves, the dread condition in which you do at this day stand. We do, therefore, to the accomplishment of our purpose, issue this but a brief of our grand...

    • 6 From An Appeal in Four Articles (1830)
      (pp. 68-89)
      David Walker

      It will be recollected, that I, in the first edition of my “Appeal,”¹ promised to demonstrate in the course of which, viz. in the course of my Appeal, to the satisfaction of the most incredulous mind, that we Coloured People of these United States, are, the most wretched, degraded and abject set of beings that ever lived since the world began, down to the present day, and, that, the white Christians of America, who hold us in slavery (or, more properly speaking, pretenders to Christianity), treat us more cruel and barbarous than any Heathen nation did any people whom it...

    • 7 Address at the African Masonic Hall (1833)
      (pp. 90-98)
      Maria Stewart

      African rights and liberty is a subject that ought to fire the breast of every free man of color in these United States, and excite in his bosom a lively, deep, decided and heart-felt interest. When I cast my eyes on the long list of illustrious names that are enrolled on the bright annals of fame among the whites, I tum my eyes within, and ask my thoughts, “Where are the names ofourillustrious ones?” It must certainly have been for the want of energy on the part of the free people of color, that they have been long...

  6. Two Classical Black Nationalism, 1850–62

    • 8 From The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States (1852)
      (pp. 101-124)
      Martin R. Delany

      We give below the Act of Congress, known as the “Fugitive Slave Law,” for the benefit of the reader, as there are thousands of the American people of all classes, who have never read the provisions of this enactment; and consequently, have no conception of its enormity. We had originally intended, also, to have inserted here, the Act of Congress of 1793, but since this Bill includes all the provisions of that Act, in fact, although called a “supplement,” is a substitute,de facto, it would be superfluous; therefore, we insert the Bill alone, with explanations following:—

      To Amend and...

    • 9 From Obiter Dictum on the Dred Scott Case (1857)
      (pp. 125-130)
      Roger B. Taney

      The question is simply this: Can a Negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community formed and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States, and as such become entitled to all the rights, and privileges, and immunities, guaranteed by that instrument to the citizen? One of which rights is the privilege of suing in a court of the United States in the cases specified in the Constitution.

      It will be observed, that the plea applies to that class of persons only whose ancestors were Negroes of...

    • 10 From A Vindication of the Capacity of the Negro Race for Self-Government and Civilized Progress (1857)
      (pp. 131-134)
      James T. Holly

      But our historical investigations are at an end, and we must hasten to bring our reflections to a conclusion. I have now fulfilled my design in vindicating the capacity of the negro race for self-government and civilized progress against the unjust aspersions of our unprincipled oppressors, by boldly examining the facts of Haytian history and deducing legitimate conclusions therefrom. I have summoned the sable heroes and statesmen of that independent isle of the Caribbean Sea, and tried them by the high standard of modern civilization, fearlessly comparing them with the most illustrious men of the most enlightened nations of the...

    • 11 African Civilization Society (1859)
      (pp. 135-141)
      Frederick Douglass

      “But I entreated you to tell your readers what your objections are to the civilization and christianization of Africa. What objection have you to colored men in this country engaging in agriculture, lawful trade, and commerce in the land of my forefathers? What objection have you to an organization that shall endeavor to check and destroy the African slavetrade, and that desires to co-operate with anti-slavery men and women of every grade in our own land, and to toil with them for the overthrow of American slavery?—Tell us, I pray you, tell us in your clear and manly style....

    • 12 From Address at Cooper’s Institute (1860)
      (pp. 142-144)
      Henry Highland Garnet

      We have among us men of talent and learning, but such is the prejudice against our race that they are not employed. The African Civilization Society proposes by the assistance of God to aid in the removal of those un-Christian barriers which are placed in the way of our race, by discovering fields for the full and free exercise of their talents and energies either in our own native land, in Central America, in Haiti, in any of the free West Indies Islands, or in Africa the land of our forefathers. We believe that Africa is to be redeemed by...

    • 13 From Official Report of the Niger Valley Exploring Party (1861)
      (pp. 145-168)
      Martin R. Delany

      On or about the latter part of July, 1853, the following document was sent on, and shortly appeared in the columns of “Frederick Douglass’ Paper,” Rochester, N.Y., and the “Aliened American,” published and edited by William Howard Day, Esq., M.A., at Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., which continued in those papers every issue, until the meeting of the Convention:

      Men and Brethren: The time has fully come when we, as an oppressed people, should do something effectively, and use those means adequate to the attainment of the great and long desired end—do something to meet the actual demands of the present...

    • 14 The Progress of Civilization along the West Coast of Africa (1861)
      (pp. 169-187)
      Alexander Crummell

      Three hundred years of misery have made West Africa the synonyme of every thing painful and horrible. So generally, nay, so universally, has this been the case, that it is difficult for us to connect ideas grateful and gracious with evenanypart of that continent. It seems to have an enstamped character which cannot admit of mitigating lights or relieving shades. Fact, and incident, and memory, and imagination, all serve but to breed suggestions that are distressful and agonizing.

      The principle of association, moreover, is so tenacious and persistent a faculty that it is almost impossible, at times, to...

    • 15 The Call of Providence to the Descendants of Africa in America (1862)
      (pp. 188-208)
      Edward Wilmot Blyden

      Among the descendants of Africa in this country the persuasion seems to prevail, though not now to the same extent as formerly, that they owe no special duty to the land of their forefathers; that their ancestors having been brought to this country against their will, and themselves having been born in the land, they are in duty bound to remain here and give their attention exclusively to the acquiring for themselves, and perpetuating to their posterity, social and political rights, notwithstanding the urgency of the call which their fatherland, by its forlorn and degraded moral condition, makes upon them...

    • 16 Address on Colonization to a Deputation of Colored Men (1862)
      (pp. 209-214)
      Abraham Lincoln

      August 14, 1862

      This afternoon the President of the United States gave audience to a Committee of colored men at the White House. They were introduced by the Rev. J. Mitchell, Commissioner of Emigration. E. M. Thomas, the Chairman, remarked that they were there by invitation to hear what the Executive had to say to them. Having all been seated, the President, after a few preliminary observations, informed them that a sum of money had been appropriated by Congress, and placed at his disposition for the purpose of aiding the colonization in some country of the people, or a portion...

    • 17 An Open Letter to the Colored People (1862)
      (pp. 215-218)
      Daniel A. Payne

      Men, Brethren, Sisters: A crisis is upon us which no one can enable us to meet, conquer, and convert into blessings for all concerned, but that God who builds up one nation and breaks down another.

      For more than one generation, associations of white men, entitled Colonization Societies, have been engaged in plans and efforts for our expatriation; these have been met sometimes by denunciations, sometimes by ridicule, often by argument; but now the American government has assumed the work and responsibility of colonizing us in some foreign land within the torrid zone, and is now maturing measures to consummate...

  7. Three Black Nationalist Revival, 1895–1925

    • 18 The American Negro and His Fatherland (1895)
      (pp. 221-227)
      Henry McNeal Turner

      It would be a waste of time to expend much labor, the few moments I have to devote to this subject, upon the present status of the Negroid race in the United States. It is too well-known already. However, I believe that the Negro was brought to this country in the providence of God to a heaven-permitted if not a divinesanctioned manual laboring school, that he might have direct contact with the mightiest race that ever trod the face of the globe.

      The heathen Africans, to my certain knowledge, I care not what others may say, eagerly yearn for that...

    • 19 The Conservation of Races (1897)
      (pp. 228-240)
      W. E. B. Du Bois

      The American Negro has always felt an intense personal interest in discussions as to the origins and destinies of races: primarily because back of most discussions of race with which he is familiar, have lurked certain assumptions as to his natural abilities, as to his political, intellectual and moral status, which he felt were wrong. He has, consequently, been led to deprecate and minimize race distinctions, to believe intensely that out of one blood God created all nations, and to speak of human brotherhood as though it were the possibility of an already dawning to-morrow.

      Nevertheless, in our calmer moments...

    • 20 Address at Newport News (1919)
      (pp. 241-250)
      Marcus Garvey

      Mr. President, Officers and Members of the Newport News Division of the Universal Negro Improvement Association—Indeed, it is a pleasure to be with you. From the first time I visited your city I became impressed with your earnestness. Ever since I came here and went away an impression, an indelible impression, was made on me relative to your earnestness in the great onward and upward movement engineered under the leadership of the Universal Negro Improvement Association.

      Since I visited you last the Universal Negro Improvement Association has grown financially and otherwise, numerically, to the extent that tonight, this very...

  8. Index
    (pp. 251-257)