Turning the Pages of History: The Nationalist Community in the USA
July 5, 2017 by Herbert Daughtry
“In the transportation of Africans to the Americas and the ensuing enslavement and domination by Europeans, drastic changes were required on the part of the oppressed to ensure their continued survival. But, needless to say, total transformation did not take place. One of the cultural characteristics of Africans which enhanced survival was the spirituality which was brought from the motherland. The religion of the slaves was a mixture of European Christianity and traditional African religion. The link to Africa can be seen from the names applied to some of the churches and organizations: African Free Society 1878, African Methodist Episcopal, and African Methodist Episcopal Zion. It should also be noted that the struggle for Freedom was carried on largely by these religionists who debated and attempted to implement many of the ideas which resurfaced at a later time, i.e. reparation, rebellions or insurrection, Black Power, Black Theology, Civil Disobediencs, Rifle Clubs, Institution Building, Emigration or ‘Back to Africa’, Nationalism, and Pan Africanism.
“Martin Delaney, a Black churchman and physician, sought to establish a colony in the Niger Valley in Africa. Even Marcus Garvey himself was influenced by and drew largely from Black Churches in the United States of America and Caribbean, which were maintaining links to their African past. Thus, there is a direct link with Africa and the Caribbean from the early days of slavery until now. Significantly, one of the carriers of African identity and tradition, albeit in modified form or garb, was the Black Church or Black Churchmen. The practice of Shango in Trinidad & Tobago and Pocomania in Jamaica had African roots which provided the basis for religious expressions.
“When the 20th century began, Black Religionists had provided a reservoir of ideas, concepts, experiences, methods, tactics, and strategies from which activist theologians and intellectuals could draw. In the aftermath of the Garvey era, several African nationalist groups were spawned among them such as the Black Muslim Movement, later called the Nation of Islam. This movement was based on the religious ideology that mankind began with the African race which brought civilization to the earth and was now subjected to the devilish dominion of a white degenerate offshoot from which it must now free itself.
“The Black Muslim Movement was founded in Detroit by W.D. Fard in 1930, and led by Elijah Muhammad (Elijah Poole) from 1933 until his death in 1977, but it was not until after the mid-1940s that it was to have a great national impact. Muslims passionately opposed integration, citing separation of the races as the only solution to our problem and giving as a precedence the Biblical example of the separation of Israel and Egypt. The movement imposed a strict disciplinary code on its followers, requiring industriousness, responsibility for self and the community, thrift, cleanliness and non-European mannerisms and values.
“Followers were recruited mainly from the working class and Lumpen Proletariat. Extraordinary success was achieved in working to reform the incarcerated. With the emergence of African nations in the late fifties, the movement sharpened its focus on Africa and the African connection. As this happened, the appeal of the movement broadened and many who were not willing to accept the religious ideology of the Muslims were sympathetic to their nation building endeavors and supported their condemnation of integration.
“Meanwhile, the Muslims demonstrated this separatism by building their own schools and other institutions and patronizing their own businesses. In the late fifties, a dynamic spokesperson with superb analytical skills and even greater appeal emerged; Malcolm X was converted while incarcerated. His eventual expulsion from the nation in 1964 led him on a trail to Mecca and Africa from which he returned with the message that separation of the races may be necessary in the United States only because of the disposition of the American Caucasian and that African Americans should further explore their African roots.
“Today, as the Nation of Islam has softened its position on integration, there has also been a corresponding decrease of its influence over the masses of our people.
The concept of national identity within the African American community cannot be adequately discussed without a discussion of a national homeland, a theme which has had its part to play in the struggle for liberation.
“For many, the question of national liberation is summarily dismissed because of the absence of a national homeland in the Americas and the seeming impracticality of mass exodus to Africa. However, many have seen the importance of this question of land, and the land question has been approached both in terms of the African continent and the North American continent.
“In his teachings, Marcus Garvey proclaimed that the Europeans had Europe, the Asiatics had Asia, and Africa should be for Africans (those at home and those abroad). The Nation of Islam advocated the establishment of an independent African republic within the present borders of the United States or a return of Africa until the coming of the Scriptural redemption, maintaining that social and economic separation would not by themselves bring total salvation. Malcolm X, in his last speech as a Muslim Minister, called on America to ‘set aside some separate territory in the Western hemisphere where the two races can live apart from each other since we certainly don’t get along peacefully while we are here together.’ He later sought international recognition of the land question as he held discussions with people in Africa, the Middle East, and at the United Nations.”
… to be continued.