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Turning the Pages of History: The Nationalist Community in the USA

June 30, 2017 by Herbert Daughtry

Part Two

“There have been four principle themes or dominant variables which have provided motion for the African American community since the turn of the century. Issues of race, religious ideology, land, and political power have provided the prime motivation in the struggle for national liberation.

“The necessity for the struggle for national liberation is the result of the twin evils of monopoly capitalism and racism dating back to the slave trade. The beginning of the relationship which exists today must be seen within the context of this struggle which has been continuing for nearly five hundred years. These variables must also be seen within the context of simultaneous occurrence with themselves and with other initiatives offered in response to this national oppression.

“The turn of the century found the struggle of the African American community focused on the question of race, a struggle which led to the greatest mobilization into a mass movement of Africans in the western world. Following the collapse of reconstruction, the period after slavery when white America was to have reorganized itself to make room for the newly-freed slaves, the African American community was faced with making its own decisions as to what its relationship should be to the dominant society. Booker T. Washington, the first significant leader to emerge in this era ought to lead down a path of reconciliation seeking to produce a community of successful entrepreneurs and trained industrial workers, who, by virtue of these accomplishments, would gain acceptance of White America.

“This leadership was welcomed and supported by many in White America, but widely criticized by the Black intelligentsia and ultimately led to the formation in 1905 of the Niagara Movement, in 1909 of the National Negro Conference, which in 1910 became the NAACP. This White-led organization (W.E.B. du Bois in his capacity as Director of Publication and Research was the only elected African American officer) sought to use political struggle along cautious constitutional lines to effect assimilation and redress the ethnic problem.

“W.E.B. du Bois sought to add dimensions to the struggle by fostering interest in African art and history, and encouraging African Americans to adopt African values. Du Bois, however, wavered between two aims and loyalties; his warnings of international racial conflict may be contrasted to his call or a moratorium on protest, the forgetting of special grievances and the closure or ranks when America entered World War I.

“The focus on race reached its high point with the emergence of Marcus Garvey and the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). An Afro-Caribbean from Jamaica, Garvey grew up in colonialism and suffered no dilemma on the question of allegiance and was able, unlike Du Bois, to reach the African American masses with his message. An admirer of Booker T. Washington, Garvey, like Washington, encouraged enterprise in the African community, but unlike Washington not for the purpose of assimilation, but with a vision of self-sufficiency, race pride, and repatriation. Garvey, having traveled extensively in Latin America and to London, and meeting Africans from different parts of the British Empire, realized the worldwide subjugation of Africans and was bent on ‘uniting all the Negro peoples of the world into one great body to establish a country and government absolutely their own.’ With its motto, ‘One God,’ ‘One Aim,’ ‘One Destiny,’ the UNIA had its own anthem and its own flag, and a following estimated at in the neighborhood of four million.

“The UNIA established the Black Star Steamship Company, and African Orthodox Church, the Universal African Legion, the Universal Black Gross Nurses, a weekly newspaper, the Negro World, and the Negro Political Union. After eight years in the United States, Garvey was arrested in 1925 on mail fraud charges and deported two years later to Jamaica, bringing about the demise of the UNIA. The achievements of Garvey and the UNIA have had lasting effects. Recent discussion with first, second, and third generation ‘Garveyites’ revealed that to them one of the most significant aspects of the works and teachings of Marcus Garvey was, and is, pride in the African race.”

… to be continued.