Du Bois, Garvey, Booker T., &
Edited by Dr. S Okechukwu Mezu &
Among the proponents of black nationalism,
our choice of W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Booker T.
Washington, and Kwame Nkrumah as the quadruple theme of the 1999
International, Interdisciplinary Pan-African Conference of
Writers of African Descent Speak!( WADS): Black
Creativity and the State of the Race held at Morgan
State University (April 7-9, 1999) was both novel and crucial.
It was novel because it was arguably the
first time the four great black nationalists had been juxtaposed
in that order at any conference. And it was crucial
to the orientation of the three WADS Conferences so far held to
evaluate Black Creativity and the State of the Race (1997-1999).
These four black leaders so well illustrate the stated direction
of the Pan-African conferences which, in the tradition of both
W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey, seek to encourage a
rapprochement between the various peoples of African descent in
Africa and the black diaspora.
The accent is on the necessity for black
people to work closely together. From Du Bois comes this wish
that "when once the blacks of the United States, West
Indies, and Africa work and think together, the future of black
[people] in the modern world is safe" (W.E.B. Du
Bois: A Reader 403). He meant work with and not for
black Africa — a theme that was echoed by Marcus Garvey when he
insisted that "we must work together . . . not to go
to Africa for the purpose of exercising over-lordship over the
natives . . . but brotherly co-operation which will make the
interests of the native African and the American and the West
Indian Negro one and the same . . . a common partnership to
build up Africa in the interests of our race" (The
Philosophy & Opinions of Marcus Garvey 70-71).
Some of the Big Four knew themselves and, to
some degree, interacted with one another at different
times. W.E.B. Du Bois knew, corresponded, collaborated, as
well as fought with Booker T. Washington. It may not be
known by everyone that Booker T. Washington admired the
scholarly achievements of Du Bois, sought without success to
conscript the haughty man of letters as a possible lieutenant
(Quarles, The Negro in the Making of America 172), and
did publish the latter's article, "The Talented
Tenth," in a book he edited.
Du Bois, on the other hand, in "The
Negro in Literature and Art" (1913) praised Washington's Up
From Slavery as "the latest" in the voices of
"Negro authors being heard in the United States" (W. E. B.
Du Bois: A Reader 232). Ironically, while in London in
1899, Booker T. Washington pledged his support to Henry
Sylvester Williams, the lawyer from Trinidad who was organizing
activities towards the 1900 Pan-African conference; Washington
encouraged as many people as possible to attend the said
conference (Claypole & Robottom 79-80).
As is common knowledge, Marcus Garvey admired
Booker T. Washington's successful institutional and economic
experiment at Tuskegee Institute (1881), and came to the United
States to meet him. Garvey knew and fought with Du Bois,
but they both acknowledged the potency of each other's vision
even if by way of protest, even as each doubted the wisdom and
direction of the other's program.
Kwame Nkrumah's revolutionary black
nationalist ideology was a mix of inspiration from both
Marcus Garvey and Du Bois. Kwame subsequently worked very
closely with the Grand Old Father of Pan-Africanism; he harbored
and sheltered Du Bois until the latter's death in Ghana in 1963.
Consequently, WADS Conference organizers
sought to synthesize from the black nationalist ideologies of
our four heroes, positive principles that should continue to
serve the greater common interests and enhance the progress of
all black people because the four leaders embodied different
aspects of black nationalism. If Black Nationalism can
be regarded largely as the centralization of efforts at race
pride, unity, political and economic self-reliance,
liberation from colonial / neo-colonial manipulation,
then the four subjects together embodied all of these aspects.
They inherited the definitional nature of
black nationalism from fore-runners such as David Walker,
Edward Wilmot Blyden, Martin Delany and Alexander Crummell;
at least, three of them - Du Bois, Garvey and Nkrumah inherited,
to a greater or a lesser degree, the revolutionary spirit of
Gabriel Prosser and Nat Turner: Du Bois's Niagara Movement
(1905) was both radical and revolutionary; for Du Bois, Pan-Africanism
was a tool he used to promote the movement's radical
ideological, political concept of multicultural democracy while
under Garvey, the black nationalist ideology reached its apogee
as racial purism; he was against miscegenation and so was Du
Garvey advocated complete separatism -
through his "Back-to-Africa" movement; he worked with
the Ku Klux Klan; he advocated Africa for the Africans — "every race to its own habitat," (The Philosophy
& Opinions of Marcus Garvey 68, 72). Booker T.
Washington and Marcus Garvey extended and perfected the
institutional and economic philosophy of black nationalism.
All of these ideologies would later inspire Kwame Nkrumah's Pan-Continentalism
by which he sought to effect the political and economic unity of
African states (Nkrumahism) so that Africa would rid itself of
European colonial rule and exploitation.
Moreover, the WADS Conference theme itself
cuts across disciplines (as it must need do) since W.E.B. Du
Bois alone was a scholar with expertise in several fields
simultaneously — History, Political Science, Sociology,
Literature, ancient as well as modern Languages, et cetera.
If nothing else, because of the commonality of black peoples'
social heritage of suffering under slavery, solidarity as the
oppressed under colonialism, and what Gbadagesin terms "the
kinship of the dispossessed" (W.E.B. Du Bois 231), our
quadruple conference subjects confer on all peoples of African
descent that trans-regional consciousness, even expanding it, as
Du Bois did after his seven-month world tour of 1936, to the
level of rhetoric of a global liberation struggle of the
world's oppressed against Western imperialism and colonialism.
Du Bois, Garvey, Booker T. and Nkrumah
therefore qualify highly as representative nationalists because
of the important legacies their activities spawned. Each
of them possessed: charisma, a definite program with a vision,
and great powers of oratory. W.E.B. Du Bois remains foremost
among the most extraordinarily gifted, articulate and
influential explicators of the depths of racial meaning in this
His writings were prolific, wide-ranging and
of far-reaching effect; his thrusting mind traversed even the
social sciences. Supremely self-confident and
super-educated, he wrote incessantly on a broad range of topics.
He made prophetic statements as evidenced by his uncanny1900
prophecy that the color line would define twentieth century
civilization -which it did, and is still continuing to do.
If some modern scholars are presently having misgivings about
the future relevance of his writings owing to his language which
at times waxed romantic, idealistic and old-fashioned, many
other scholars will state without equivocation that Du Bois's
ideas and importance will last and last, because the issues he
fought about concern abstract but timeless ideas that define the
quality of the existence of individuals as well as nations.
From The Souls of Black Folk (1903)
came the most aware articulation of the cultural and
psychological burden under which the black individual in America
lives beleaguered by a double identity as both black and
American. From Du Bois's refining insight stems most
modern literary and analytical studies of the Negro condition —
his Atlanta papers issuing from the 1897-1910 conference studies
while he was Atlanta University professor of History and
Economics, and especially The Negro (1915), laid the
foundation of later Black and African Studies programs in
universities; and he continues to act as guide and
resource-authority for scholars and students in the academy just
as his triple concept of Race, Class and Gender inspired
Multicultural Studies in universities.
Du Bois promoted Liberal Arts education for
blacks and immediately, Greek-letter societies came into
existence. Du Bois's urban cultural concept of the
exceptionally qualified "Talented Tenth" provided the
leaven with which to lead the masses in the agitation for
political and civic rights and in the enlightened advancement of
the race. His Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study
(1899) would lay the foundations of modern Sociology as a
There are still in existence ongoing projects
which were the fruits of his prodigious talents - the NAACP
(1909), the journals - Phylon and the monthly magazine Crisis:
A Record of the Darker Races (1910); the Pan-African
Congresses he organized in 1919, 1921, 1925, 1927 became the
platform for the struggle to empower the nations of Africa and
eventually the exploited nations of other races to liberate and
govern themselves. These efforts will culminate in the
1945 Manchester Pan-African Congress at which featured a
well-represented vanguard of intellectual and political leaders
of the black world some of whom became future leaders of states
Perhaps, his greatest legacy and one that
places his view on an enlarged, global plane - one that
fortuitously began during his lifetime - is his prophetic
pronouncement of African and Asian nationalism long before the
countries of both continents started gaining their independence.
Nkrumah confessed his debt to Du Bois who
advised him to assume leadership in eliminating all artificial
barriers of language, religion, or culture separating African
countries, and to help organize a Pan-African political
union with its independent units working together to develop a
new African economy and cultural center standing between Europe
and Asia, taking and contributing to both.... It should avoid
subjection to and ownership by foreign capitalists who seek to
get rich on African labor and raw materials and should try to
build a socialism founded on African communal life (Du Bois The
World and Africa 296).
Few black leaders had been so completely
preoccupied with the welfare of Africans and the African
continent as was Du Bois, and none had so convincingly
researched facts that set forth the African village and
community as the cornerstone of past and future civilizations.
Believing as he did that the power of social science would
provide the knowledge to combat racial discrimination, it is
gratifying that his monumental project - the Encyclopedia
Africana which he started in Ghana was by 1999 completed by
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Wole Soyinka, et al and is featured in
the internet as Encarta Africana.
A charge often leveled against Du Bois was
that, although he had challenged Marcus Garvey relentlessly, he
changed from his integrationist ideology to adopt an almost
separatist stance after Garvey's death. It bears repeating
that Du Boisian ideas about the eradication of racism, and
advocacy of equal treatment for all human beings never did
change. Over his long span of existence - 93 years - what
would change from time to time, depending on the social and
political circumstances of the period, was his approach towards
achieving his objectives.
For instance, it is not often known that
despite their disagreements, not long after Garvey's death, Du
Bois on February 9, 1944 reached out in a letter to Garvey's
widow, Amy Ashwood Jacques Garvey, discussing with her and other
black leaders that included Paul Robeson, the idea of developing
an African Freedom Charter and the setting up of another
She subsequently came to Manchester for the
1945 Pan-African Congress and Manning Marable records that
"Amy Jacques Garvey received warm applause from all
participants" (210-217). No doubt, at the critical
period in which Garvey and Du Bois interacted, it would have
served the cause of black nationalism immeasurably if both of
them, instead of working against each other, had joined
forces to free the black peoples of Africa and black diaspora
from the shackles of Western economic and political imperialism.
If Du Bois' greatness is anchored in the
realm of abstract ideas and ideals, Booker T. Washington on the
other hand, advocates boast, personifies concretely visible and
lasting edifices — the first, all-black-staffed Veterans'
Administration Hospital (1924) and, especially, Tuskegee
Institute founded in 1881 and maintained with grants from Mellon
and Andrew Carnegie. The latter in 1903 provided a grant
of $600,000 to Washington since "to me he seems one of the
foremost of living men because his work is unique" (qtd. by
This acclaim and admiration by privileged
white hegemony is one reality that bedeviled and continues to
haunt Washington's reputation, for by advocating industrial
education and mechanical skills, it was as if, as Du Bois
accused him, he was leading the race backwards, wanting to
keep Negroes still mired in slavery, still serving white people.
Booker T.'s landmark 1895 Atlanta Exposition address to Negroes
on race relations would always be largely viewed resentfully as
a counsel to Negroes to forego their political and social rights
as equal and autonomous beings.
Yet this turn-of-the-century greatest of
black leaders justified his philosophy by pointing out that his
brand of education while developing mechanical skills also
developed character, citing in 1907, the positive result of his
investigation - that not one Tuskegee graduate could be found
within the precincts of any penitentiary in the United States.
Thus, Booker T. Washington, remains an exponent par excellence
of the ideology that the economic success of Negroes will
provide the basis for political strength and usher in great
overall advancement for the race as exemplified in the
illustrious career of Dr. George Washington Carver trained
Booker T.'s revolutionary legacy in creating
a merchant class is thus the fulfillment of the dream of other
black nationalists such as Martin Robison Delaney, the
Pittsburgh newspaper editor who in "The Condition and
Destiny of Africans in the United States" recommended that
basic, practical knowledge of various business enterprises,
professions and sciences, is the cornerstone for the elevation
of the colored race.
Additionally, Booker T. in 1900 founded the
Negro Business League as a black chamber of commerce designed
for the rising black merchant class, and by 1915, its local and
state branches totaled some 600. Insurance companies and
banks followed. Under Washington's leadership, Blacks may
have wielded little political power, nevertheless, they were
motivated by race pride to invest in black businesses.
Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery,
above all other considerations, as Benjamin Quarles puts it, was
"an affirmation of faith in the future" progress of
black people (The Negro in the Making of America 168).
This love for the progress and welfare of black people makes the
method Booker T. employed to realize his goals one of expediency
during the turbulent post-Reconstruction era.
Then, in 1916, Marcus Garvey stepped into a
United States landscape steeped in violence - protest over
lynching, virulent Jim Crow laws in operation, military
segregation of black soldiers and the disillusionment resulting
from Woodrow Wilson's betrayal of the urban Negroes' hopes of
eradicating the color line following the 1912 elections.
With his great talents of oratory, persuasion and organizing the
masses, the charismatic Garvey found the non-elite black masses
receptive to his black nationalist rhetoric.
The details of his flamboyant organization
are now part of history. Receiving inspiration from Booker
T. Washington, he expanded the latter's philosophy of economic
self-sufficiency through black-owned business — a philosophy
made concrete when Garvey established the Black Star Line and
other businesses. And, Garvey would go beyond the
insular confines of the United States to reach the black masses
in Africa, West Indies and South America bringing to the
American Negroes an awareness of the wider world.
With his United Negro Improvement Association
(UNIA), and the weekly Negro World, his exhortations excited the
imagination of the poor, urban Negroes to whom he gave the gifts
of self-respect and pride in themselves and in their race.
Although Garvey did go too far with his black supremacist views,
his legacies include merging religion and politics as the basis
for a new liberation theology - he established an African
Orthodox Church which extolled African religious and cultural
principles already expounded by Edward Wilmot Blyden in an
earlier age. Garvey's ideas of black nationalism had sweep
and would inspire struggles for liberation against colonialism.
Du Bois's and Garvey's social backgrounds and
academic experiences were dissimilar, thus making their now
famous dispute really one based on contrasting educational and
social positions. Du Bois was in approach introspective,
idealistic, elitist and encouraged native Africans towards
leadership assumption in Africa, Garvey, as a man of the
masses, was gregarious, practical and sought to establish for
diasporan blacks a homeland in Liberia, Africa, from where all
blacks would unite to build up the African Continent to
greatness. These were two very different approaches to the
same complex race problem.
Thus, in the post-World War I era, Marcus
Garvey and Du Bois ranked as the two most outstanding black
leaders. While it might be romantic to imagine how formidable a
Booker T. / Du Bois team or a Du Bois / Garvey team working
jointly could have been, yet even in their dispute, the
disparity in their explosive positions highlighted the black
nationalist cause, propelling it into a global arena, such that
African nationalist leaders such as Jomo Kenyatta, Nnamdi
Azikiwe and Kwame Nkrumah were able to base their activities on
the elders' ideologies and achievements.
Kwame Nkrumah, the last but not the least of
our four black nationalists under consideration, stands out as a
favored son from the motherland, an inheritor of the struggles
and ideologies of black nationalism. In Nkrumah also, the
aspirations of black nationalism would find both practical and
symbolic fulfillment. Marcus Garvey, though dead long
before Ghana's independence in1957, was an early inspiration to
Nkrumah through his economic self-sufficiency ideology and his
emancipation call: "Awake! The day is upon you, go forth in
the name of the race and build yourselves a nation, redeem your
country Africa, the land from whence you came and prove
yourselves worthy of the recognition of others" (qtd. in
Amy Jacques Garvey 99).
But it was W.E.B. Du Bois, blessed with
longevity, who lived to see aspects of his political ideology
come to fruition in Nkrumah as some African nations (led by
Nkrumah's Ghana) became free. Introduced to the London
socialist / Marxist circle by George Padmore, Nkrumah came
into prominence during the 1945 Manchester Pan-African Congress
which he organized jointly with Padmore.
Nkrumah's legacies include the founding of
the Organization of African Unity (OAU) which he envisaged as a
prelude to more concrete efforts at a continental union.
His dream of economic and political emancipation of Africa and
its subsequent greatness among the international committee of
nations continues to shine as a beacon to African nations
(presently reeling in the grip of post-independence native and
neo-colonialist exploitation), to transcend artificially created
barriers and harness more efficiently their economic and
political self-government programs.
Nkrumah's sponsorship of freedom movements in
Africa, his generous monetary help to emerging black nations,
and his close association of the independence of Ghana to a free
Africa, all these legacies will ensure that whenever and
wherever black nationalists are considered, Kwame Nkrumah will
always feature as one of the ablest, most energetic and
The above considerations constituted the
rationale for organizing the Third International
Interdisciplinary WADS Black Creativity Pan-African Conference
(April 7-9, 1999). The response was tremendous. Scholars
came from universities across the country. Nwalimu Nyerere,
founding president of United Republic of Tanzania was flying in
from Africa and the Hon. Dudley Thompson, Q.J., Q.C. — reputed
as Jamaica's national treasure — who gave the conference opening
keynote address, equally was flying in from the West Indies.
Dr. Bernard W. Bell, a Du Bois scholar
from The Pennsylvania State University, was the keynote lecturer
for the second day while Amiri Baraka, formerly Leroi Jones
— founder of the Black Arts Movement was the distinguished star
attraction for the third and last day of the conference.
These represented a continuation of the tradition of actual
geographical, spatial movement of scholars and Pan-Black
nationalists attending the WADS Pan-African Conference in the
last three years.
The three-day conference was a remarkable
trajectory; the twenty (20) sessions were well-attended;
the quality of the sixty (60) scholarly papers presented was
outstanding; audience participation was scholarly,
informed, intensely passionate and committed. 1999 WADS
Conference subjects - DuBois, Garvey, Booker T. and
Nkrumah — were protectively vigilant, ensuring that all
would go well.
This led Dr. Rose Mezu to point out that,
despite formidable handicaps, a set of cultural heroes have been
able to rise above crushing disabilities to progressively
reverse, individually and collectively, an established status
quo in order to create for black people worldwide alternate
choices. These choices include freedom movements, ideology of
self reliance, belief in common cultural affinity, and sometimes
belief in a unified political destiny of racial greatness.
The Hon. Dudley Thompson embodied
Pan-African history itself as he spoke, intimately and from
firsthand knowledge, of incidents in the lives of Du Bois,
Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah, C.L.R. James, George Padmore,
Jomo Kenyatta, Nelson Mandela. Amiri Baraka, founder of
the Black Arts movement, initiator and interpreter of Kwanzaa
was to be showcased together with Nwalimu Julius Nyerere.
In coming, Baraka was enticed both by the subject matter and by
a desire to be re-united with the great nationalist Nwalimu
Julius K. Nyerere (himself, also a young participant at the
historic 1945 Manchester pan-African Congress). Nwalimu
Nyerere, involved with the Burundi Peace Talks, faxed an urgent
message stating his predicament.
Baraka's talk caught and held the fascinated
interest of students and the conference audience, whom he moved
to near tears with his electrifying speech. For three
days, the conference community explored, debated and
re-evaluated all aspects of the issues plaguing black
people, youth and adult alike in Africa and especially in its
diaspora today. The Conference sessions generated a lot of
anguished soul-searching and resolutions were arrived at for
every black person to do the utmost wherever he / she happens to
be, for all to be instructed by the lessons of the achievements
and the mistakes of earlier and present black nationalists.
At the end, Amiri Baraka's sobering final
message struck a chord that would be food for thought:
there is nothing intrinsically good
about being black or being white. The commanding
question is: "what is your ideology? What is
it that you do?" It is not what you say.
People can say anything. The point is ... what you
do.... The fundamental question of black
liberation is the unification of all the ideologies in
the black community to struggle against imperialism.
Whether you are nationalist or communist, Baptist or
Republican, Presbyterian or Buddhist, the whole question
is unification against imperialism.
Therefore, the essays that
follow are selected from the many numerous MSU WADS 1999
Conference lectures. Rose Mezu's "Of Black
Rebels and Nationalist Struggles" takes a look at black
nationalists down the ages and, in reconsidering Du Bois,
Garvey, Washington and Nkrumah, seeks to connect the different
positive strands of the various ideologies of black nationalism
- a unification that can only serve the present and future
interests of black communities.
Then, the Hon. Dudley
Thompson came from Kingston, Jamaica to relive the highlights of
the 5th Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England in 1945.
As a living witness to the
great Pan-African events of the post-World War II era when the
ideals of black nationalism were being given articulation, the
Hon. Dudley Thompson as an embodiment of black history was a
not-to-be-missed experience in himself. The conference
audience thrilled to his powerful voice demanding reparation for
the dehumanizing abuses of centuries of slavery, and for the
economic and political rape of Africa. Listing other
countries who had been compensated for racial oppression, he
urges a more determined and concerted effort towards renewing
astounded and humbled a much younger generation by the clarity
of his vision and focused direction of his goal, by his fire and
the vibrant force of his nationalist spirit. Delving
into history, he explains the meaning, impact and
objectives of black nationalism; he examines its nature as it is
espoused and manifested in the ideologies of past generations of
black nationalists, especially Olaudah Equiano, Frederick
Douglass, Du Bois, Booker T., Garvey, Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere,
Sekou Tour, Amilcar Cabral and Kwame Tour. Baraka expands
the meaning of nationalism to embrace the fate of blacks in
Africa and other parts of the black diaspora.
While pointing out the
interplay of race, American culture and the struggle for
authentic equality, he underscores the need for increased
individual and communal consciousness in order to grasp the
essence of being black without apologizing for it even while
still being American:
don't let nobody run you off...you
deserve the same thing, anything any other American has.
But don't let nobody trick you into thinking that
somebody is going to give it to you. You should
understand this! You must have that self
determination to create the instruments even to struggle
for democracy. Is that clear?
Amiri Baraka as an active participant in the
epoch-making 1960s and afterwards. He leaves with him the
central message for blacks to acquire individual and racial
consciousness based on education in the truest sense of it, a
thorough knowledge of black history and cultural heritage,
self-reliance and the unification of all the ideologies
operating in black communities, and directed towards a common
purpose, so that black people can bargain from a position of
The youthful Rev. Dr. Jamal-Harrison
Bryant, NAACP Director of Youth, in his youth-oriented
lecture, left a deep impression.
He delineated the defining principles of
black nationalism as — "the right kind of education, group
awareness and cohesion, economic self-sufficiency, and a
clear distinction between faddism and mature focus, between
inane consumerism and self-run economic ventures since, as it
appears, we have become professional consumers and amateur
producers. . . . [We] have a new generation of nationalists who
have their hair twisted, but have Tommy Hilfiger on their
shirts...we have a demented mentality about finances...we buy
what we do not need with money we do not have to impress folks
we do not like " (73).
In order to succeed, every group must possess
a dynamic and clearly envisioned ideology. The generation
of the 1960s had the Civil Rights, Black Arts Movement and
Vietnam; in the 1970s, there was still Vietnam and the Black
Panthers; the 1980s even had the Gay Rights. For the
Nineties generation, there is nothing but divisive controversies
over Hip-Hop, gang-murders and shootings by school boys over
designer products — enslaving products from the mainstream have
already brainwashed and marginalized a black minority.
How can one better motivate the black youth?
The youthful, but clear sighted Dr. Bryant
re-emphasized the great need for a transforming, elevating and
guiding ideology around which black youth can rally and unify -
an ideology that unites all others besides and, which is
built and maintained on love.
Another thread that connects all the essays
is this idea of a pooling together of resources and of thoughts,
human and material resources. Okechukwu Mezu in
reviewing the heroes and villains of Pan-Africanism traces the
history of Pan-Africanism and African independence. Each
black leader, he believes, contributed some unique thought to
the concept of black nationalism. None of its
disparate aspects must be neglected or thrown away. He
examines the genesis, growth and results of Pan-African
thoughts, and going beyond Du Bois and Garvey, evaluates the
import of Pan-Africanism on the African continent itself against
a backdrop of pervasive colonial and neo-colonial economic
While decrying Western hegemonic intrigues
which destabilize newly independent democracies, Mezu
nonetheless indicts black-on-black oppression and the seemingly
established tradition of military take-overs hatched by
political overlords reminding one of Nkrumah's lament that each
country is being "destroyed by those very pressures and
forces which only a continental government could have
The concept of Pan-Continentalism advocated
by Du Bois, the implementation of which was begun by Nkrumah,
echoes once again in Mezu's essay. Sebastian Okechukwu Mezu in
expanding the Pan-African Conference history brings to mind the
fact that during the monumental 1960s, he was a young student at
Georgetown University and the Johns Hopkins University,
witnessing the independence of various African nations, the
founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, and
participating as a Biafran nationalist cum Envoy (1967-1970) in
the fight against black-on-black oppression.
During this time in addition to writing the
definitive work on Leopold Senghor's philosophy and poetry, Leopold
Sedar Senghor et la defense et illustration de la civilisation
noire (1968), he [Sebastian Okechukwu Mezu]
interacted, as Biafran Envoy, with Presidents Houphouet-Boigny
of Cote d'Ivoire, Leopold Senghor of Senegal, Omar Bernard Bongo
of Gabon in addition to attending the Peace Conferences
sponsored by President Hamani Diori in Niamey, Niger Republic
(1968) and Emperor Haile Selassie in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
(1968) before establishing Black Academy Press (1970), one of
the earliest black-owned academic publishing houses.
His incisive and comprehensive essay,
in posing the question, "Who are the Heroes, who are the
villains of Pan-Africanism?" reiterates the call made in
the preceding essays for present black leaders to strive to find
common grounds in their pursuit of black liberation and
As already articulated by the great Dr. Du
Bois and Garvey, Mezu counsels peoples of African descent to
develop an abiding interest in the welfare and progress of the
continent of Africa whose independence, inspired by African
nationalists in the diaspora, in turn gave impetus to black
political and Civil Rights gains in the 1960s. As Kwame
Toure who was Stokely Carmichael stated in Black Power,
"the extent to which Black Americans can and do ‘trace
their roots' to Africa, to that extent will they be able to be
more effective on the political scene [in America]" (45).
On his part, Bernard W. Bell's essay
distills the essential difference between W.E.B. Du Bois and
Booker T. Washington as one of "agency, authority and
authenticity" - (terms he defines convincingly) since both
men "aspired to move their race up from slavery to
economic, cultural and political freedom, literacy and
unity" (138). Bell lends his voice to preceding
voices in decrying the frequency and the gruesomeness of the
"chilling...brutal and murderous acts committed with
impunity against black people by too many law enforcement
officers" (116-7) - a practice that Baraka in his address
has likened to the rituals of lynching:
You know instead of the Klan now, you got the
cops; they took off the white stuff, now you got blue
stuff; it's still the Klan." It was lynch law that
killed Amadou Diallo in New York. Was that pure lynching?
What do you think happened to Byrd in Texas? Was it pure
lynching? Of course it was lynching. What about the
brother in North Carolina that was burned to death? What
about the brother in Florida that they set fire on? It was
pure lynching? What about those one hundred and thirty
churches they set fire to? Was that any different? No it
was not (Baraka).
Bell concludes by identifying Du Bois's
double consciousness as a biracial, bicultural trope which
Americans of sub-Saharan West and Central African descent employ
to reconcile the complexity of life in America lived both as
ascribed object/outsider, and as socio-culturally
constructed subject/ insider.
The essay by Etta Hill explains the
extraordinary vision of Marcus Garvey who sought to effect the
total liberation of all African peoples from Western racist
exploitation, while Abraham Smith traces the influence of
Garvey's UNIA to the Panama, Costa Rica regions of Central
America. The fact was pointed out that both continental
and diasporic blacks benefitted from Garvey's vision of Pan-Africanism,
and that Garvey himself was supremely confident that he had
inspired in many blacks an imperishable legacy of hunger for a
psychological if not a physical return to the African homeland.
Indeed, the remarkable appeal that Marcus
Garvey has had on generations of black people was made manifest
during the organization of the April 1999 WADS Black Creativity
Conference. This nationalist who lacked the polish,
erudition and elitism of Du Bois actually inspired more
abstracts and papers from individual and panel lecturers than
did any of our other three ideologues. Evidently, interest in
his person and ideas is far from diminishing even with the
passage of time.
Garvey's legacy is further highlighted in
Okoro-Effiong's essay, "Revisiting Pan-Africanism"
which explores response to the flamboyant Jamaican's call to
Africans to return and rebuild Africa and to construct an
African personality. She deftly delineates the many
aspects of Pan-Africanism and its relation to African political
thought. While reconciling the far-reaching effects of both
Du Bois and Garvey's ideologies on Nkrumah, Effiong-Okoro
concludes that Nkumah's dream of a cooperative association of
African states can only ever be realized by African
leaders if disputed boundaries and similar complications created
by the hegemonic West are resolved and rearranged in the
interest of greater cooperation.
And finally, Yuichiro Onishi tackles
W.E.B Du Bois effort to apply his black nationalist thought
based on African peoples' historical experiences of racial
oppression to an international context. Onishi explicates
the peculiar and unique circumstances of the Asian region and
how Du Bois used this new political tool to encourage
struggles, beyond ethnic and national boundaries, against
European and American claims of racial supremacy.
Onishi maintains that Du Bois failed to
perceive that race was also a crucial factor in Japan's
imperialism moves against Manchuria. Onishi sees Du Bois's
Japan-Manchuria rhetoric of internationalism as a blind spot in
his race and culture theory. Nevertheless, Yuichiro
commends the efforts of Du Bois towards internationalizing his
anti-imperialist race struggle by extending it and linking it
with the struggles of other colonized peoples in the
present "third" world.
In a work of this nature, neither the list of
black nationalists nor their different brands of ideology can in
any way be exhaustively explored. Of the many excellent
papers submitted at the conference, the editors have selected
only a few that explore the Great Four black nationalists who
are thus treated as paradigms to illustrate the importance of
the eternal quest by peoples of African descent for individual
and racial identity.
Enlightenment will continue to be the key to
the realization of these goals. Realistically speaking, the role
present day intellectuals can play in building up enlightenment
and group solidarity may be limited for excessive expectations
can only produce intense disappointments. Yet, that role even if
limited is nevertheless crucial. Ideas move the world and
ideas, because of their creative force, never die. As long
as the fate of millions of Blacks the world over hangs in the
balance, the intellectual must continue to proffer ideas for
black self and group liberation.
Finally, despite the shortcomings in the
leadership styles of Du Bois, Garvey, Booker T. and Nkrumah,
they did the best they could working with very limited resources
in an era of severe political, social and economic disabilities.
They worked in pain and encountered martyrdom. Their
reward was the firm hope and belief in the liberation and
eventual greatness of the black world. Their achievements
should act as a source of inspiration for this generation,
children of a more privileged and a less oppressive age.
Thus empowered, Africa and the diaspora could strive,
individually and collectively, for an enriched and more
enlightened future for the black race and all humanity
Dr. Rose Ure Mezu
* * * *
Carmichael, Stokely & Charles V. Hamilton. Black
Power: The Politics of Liberation in America. New York:
Random House, 1967.
Claypole, William & Robottom, John. Caribbean Story,
Book Two: The Inheritors. London: Longman, 1981.
Du Bois, W.E.B. The World and Africa. New York:
International Publishers, 1981.
-----. "The Talented Tenth." In Booker T.
Washington, ed. The Negro Problem: A Series of Articles
by Representative Negroes of Today. New York: James Pott
& Co., 1903.
Garvey, Amy Jacques. comp. The Philosophy & Opinions
of Marcus Garvey. Dover, Mass: Majority Press, 1986.
Gbadegesin, Segun. "Kinship of the Dispossessed."
In W.E.B. Du Bois: On Race & Culture. Ed.
Bernard W. Bell, Emily Grosholz & James B. Stewart. New
York: Routledge, 1996, 219-242.
Marable, Manning. "The Pan-Africanism of W.E.B. Du
Bois." In W.E.B. Du Bois: On Race & Culture.
Ed. Bernard W. Bell, Emily Grosholz & James B. Stewart.
New York: Routledge, 1996. 193-218.
Mezu, S. Okechukwu. Leopold Sdar Senghor et la defense et
illustration de la civilisation noire. Paris: Editions
Marcel Didier, 1968.
Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the Making of
America. New York: Macmillan, 1964.
Weinberg, Meyer. ed. W.E.B. Du Bois: A Reader. New
York: Harper and Row, 1970.
Source: Dr. S Okechukwu Mezu & Rose Ure Mezu, eds. Black
Nationalists: Reconsidering Du Bois, Garvey, Booker T. & Nkrumah. Baltimore:
Black Academy Press, 1999.
* * *
Other essays by Dr. Rose Ure Mezu:
Blueprint for Living in the 3rd Millennium
Global Community1: An Essay
John Paul II: A Life with a Mission: A Mission of Grace and Moral
of Africana Women's Literature (Introduction)
Women: Their Historic Past and Future
Nationalists: Reconsidering: Du Bois, Garvey, Booker T., &
Chinua Achebe The
Man and His Works (Introduction)
* * *
Malcolm X Speaks on Marcus Garvey
Marcus Garvey Speech
Marcus Garvey "Africa For The Africans" /
Look For Me in The Whirlwind /
* * * *
Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a
collection of fourteen essays by scholars and
creative writers from Africa and the Americas.
Called one of two significant critical works on
Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late
1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of
Carter G. Woodson and
Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as
well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations
were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early
essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish
medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an
historical context for understanding 20th-century
creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone
writers, such as Cuban
Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist,
Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the
significance of Negritude in Latin America. This
collaborative text set the tone for later
conferences in which writers and scholars worked
together to promote, disseminate, and critique the
literature of Spanish-speaking people of African
descent. . . .
Cited by a
literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the
field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which
most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."
* * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
* * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
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Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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* * *
updated 3 November