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For over two centuries, we African Americans have sustained a folk spirit founded primarily

in the rural agrarian societies of the southern states, where slave labor generated capital

in the production of tobacco, cotton, sugar, and more slaves.



Why Africa Ain't Israel

In Today's African American Thinking

 By Rudolph Lewis



Continental Africans and African Americans though similarly constituted suffer broadly from a lack of knowledge of our differences and our assets. Both rising from poverty and oppression still suffer inadequate education and communication systems. This shortage of connecting and stimulating systems is in need of necessary repair if centuries of hurtful myths are to be undermined and a more intimate cooperative spirit is to be developed. Writers, artists, and professionals—rather than heads of state—of both lands must lead this reconciling and educational process.

African Americans are a relatively new people, fostered in the modern era, barely two centuries old. In contrast, the unbroken ancient heritages of most African peoples, despite recent nationalisms, can be traced back thousands of years. These historical and cultural orientations make for a different sensibility and outlook.  That must be respected.

We Africans of the Americas came into conscious existence with the rise of Toussaint L’Ouverture and the nation of Haiti, whose people are now the most impoverished and brutalized in the Americas, a whipping post for France and USA foreign policies. Of the fifty or more heads of African states only Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa, gave any special significance to the celebration of Haiti’s 200th anniversary, in his address titled, “African Diaspora in the 21st century” and in his harboring of President Aristide.

We Africans of the Diaspora are a people birthed in the hands of oppression and liberty— the Atlantic slave trade and the propagation of the Rights of Man. We are a people who know practically nothing about tribal and clan and their formalities and rituals—all of which sets us apart from much of African cultural life, and provides hurdles to a mutual understanding and broad cooperation.

We Africans of the Americas have for three centuries endured the restrictions of racial oppression and terror. We Africans everywhere however still cringe under the charge that our material backwardness exists because we lack restraint, right thinking, and right worship. In this post-colonial, post-King era, our “economic subjectivity” remains bound in Euro-American chains of dependency.

We of the Americas are no longer isolated, however by time and space, from Africa and the rest of the world, whether we recognize it or not. We are all now caught up in that global network in which a third of the world’s citizens live on two dollars or less a day. We all live on a planet in which three top billionaires swamp the combined wealth of 600 million people. We both now suffer from great excesses and thus great tensions.

For over two centuries, we African Americans have sustained a folk spirit founded primarily in the rural agrarian societies of the southern states, where slave labor generated capital in the production of tobacco, cotton, sugar, and more slaves. Though primarily an oral people we are a people also of the Book. Our Anglo-Christianity is overwhelmingly Protestant and evangelical in mood and tone.

We Africans and African Americans, along with Native Americans, were both ushered into the modern era by the missionary treatment. The dominant source of our intellectual history began in missionary schools where we developed our first understanding of racial difference and blackness. Missionary education taught us quickly that education, precious as it was, did not trump the color of the skin.

In the seminaries for the first time we came in contact with world culture. We read Latin and Greek and Shakespeare, absorbed all of the prejudices of the West, and kept abreast of their sciences and discoveries. That God organized the world according to a hierarchy of racial bloods with distinct traits and gifts was one of those paradoxical discoveries we embraced and one under which we still languish.

African Americans cultural life for centuries has been a crossroads. The Hebrew Bible and the New Testament have been great resources for our development of distinctive racial myths and a sense of ourselves as a people. There is a leitmotif throughout our thinking that likens ourselves to the biblical Hebrews and their Egyptian and Roman oppression. Among us, traditionally, every child born was a potential prophet like Moses.

Among US black intellectuals for a century or more, ancient Egypt, Ethiopia, and Ghana have been inspirational in their past influences on the development of world cultures and civilizations. These literary connections encouraged and provided us tools in which to do intellectual battle against the most vicious attacks on our humanity as black people.

By the early 19th-century African Americans themselves had joined missionary and civilizing movements to redeem pagan and arabised black Africa. One of our most prominent and intellectual missionaries was the Episcopalian priest Alexander Crummell, who played a significant role in US Blacks founding Liberia after France defeated Haiti. We carried with us there all our contradictions and all the American prejudices of class, race, gender, and culture. Through these mid-century emigration movements, African identity first became widely significant for us.

Our imperial and religious view of Africa concretized itself most widely in the 1920 Convention in Harlem organized by Marcus M. Garvey, a Jamaican, whom the conventioneers from Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean elected President of Africa. In some measure Garvey’s vision of Africa was shown to be a fraud. Garvey’s rhetoric and his distribution of The Negro World nevertheless developed broadly for the first time a black internationalist perspective and a new opportunity for cooperation among Africans everywhere.

For African Americans, W. E. B Du Bois, Harvard’s first black Ph.D., was the scholar and intellectual of the 20th century who displaced the dominance of the Christian missionary spirit in our African concerns. He provided us with new eyes. His Berlin training taught him that the German peoples’ folk spirit and culture provided a foundation for classical German art, music, and literature. In 1903 he published The Souls of Black Folk, in which he argued that the gifts of America’s black folk had intrinsic worth—our songs, music, art, dance, religion—and rightfully developed could alter the destiny of the world.

In 1905 Du Bois and others created the National Association of Colored People (NAACP), the first  mass protest organization that propagandized for an appreciation of African folk culture and the defense of African independence against European militarism. Throughout the 1930s and afterward, Ethiopia and Liberia continued also to remain important in that they provided opportunities for black men in vital roles on the international stage.

Capitalized by Southern slaveholders primarily, the failed planter colony of Liberia was. never popular among the African American masses or their leaders and it was never fully supported by US foreign policies. Liberia’s failure to be inclusive came to a head in the coup of the1980s that brought Sgt. Samuel Doe to power, and thereafter two decades of brutal and devastating war. 

Those few thousands of African American who emigrated in the 19th century to Liberia became isolated and never refreshed themselves with those like themselves like other planter colonies that had a continuing stream of new blood. Thus, in a way, Liberia’s failure is also a failure in our relationships with Africa. Liberia was made for tragedy. In the 1930s modern Ethiopia and Haile Selassie were lionized, especially after the Italian insurgency led by Mussolini’s racist propaganda. But our interest in Ethiopia waned and died with the death of Selassie.

Today, the great majority of the African American folk are rather tepid and timid about Africa and its peoples. Though Tarzan is gone and the National Geographic is more sensitive, the worst images of modern Africa still appear prominently in the media. The major African images on American TV now are emaciated black babies, piteous refugees, and the hacked bodies and white bones of mass slaughter.

Despite this American racialist programming, middle-class African Americans by their own resources have developed an expanding cultural sensibility about and taste for things African—art, music, clothes, food, religion, and dance. Such cultural exchanges continue to revitalize African American culture, which in some ways dominates American popular culture, which is influential internationally.

This prosperous class of African Americans has also expanded the West African tourist trade in countries like Ghana. Nevertheless, vital historical, cultural, and economic ties to Africa or African nations comparable to that between American Jews to Israel remain a dream. Cults of African Zionists however still remain among us in cities like Chicago and New York. Very few see any promise of a home in modern African nations.

Unlike American Jews and Israel, we Africans and African Americans do not share a religious racial mythology and a sense of ourselves as one people with a common past and a common destiny. Despite this shortcoming, the machinations of global capital operating through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have shoved African and African Americans into each other’s arms.

We are all now in the same un-sea-worthy economic boat of globalism, which provides opportunities as well as perils for friendship and collaboration. Capital restricted and focused dislodges and disperses masses of populations. All resources are commodified and all need international currency for food, health, and education. And wages for unskilled work steadily declines.

International competition has become fierce. Capital and technology are concentrated outside of African and African American societies. Though liberated from colonialism and Jim Crow, respectively, we remain servants and sycophants of Western culture, capital, and political management. Many African Americans are now placing more weight on defending their privileges as Americans than developing a Pan-African identity.

In the post-colonial, post-Mandela era, we have observed mass genocide in Rwanda, millions terrorized and starved in Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo and Zimbawe. African Americans’ political romance with Africa and its people has declined radically. Many feel besieged by immigrants and political refugees from all sides – Mexico, the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia – who all undermine stable and increasing wages for African Americans, not only in urban centers but also in rural areas where low wages are ubiquitous.

Away from the academy, labor-workplace competition stimulates considerable friction. Most immigrants on arriving tend to adopt the white American view of black Americans as lazy, ignorant, and violent. US zip codes and churches, of course, are organized ethnically, so there is little social contact and intimacy, among heavily exploited ethnic groups. Except during summer festivals, we are unfamiliar and unsympathetic towards each other’s struggles, hopes, and dreams.

The massive crisis of Black Africa seems insoluble, while a third of African Americans live in poverty in the richest country in the world, set in competition against the poor of Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. All suffer from low wages, inadequate health care and nutrition, and poor education and technical training. In addition, African Americans suffer an increasing criminalization of its population and lost of the electoral ballot.

With “ethnic conflicts” on the rise, Africa has indeed been politically modernized. But most of the peoples of Black Africa have yet to enjoy the benefits of modern living and modern technology. Taken root at home and abroad, racial consciousness has exacerbated the external international economic pressures under which weak nations operate.

As Du Bois pointed out oppressed peoples cannot liberate themselves without a counter conscientious Talented Tenth – writers, artists, and other professionals – willing to make severe sacrifices on behalf of their people. We Africans at home and abroad need more vital and cooperative relationships and coordinated activities to undermine the impact of international capital.

Words and image shape our vision and bring things to life. We Africans at home or abroad see ourselves mostly through the critical lens of FOX News and BBC. We who stand apart must generate better journalists and better propagandists with fresh ideas and approaches on reaching greater numbers of our peoples. There is much work before us in need of urgent attention. Our cultural and political exchanges must be deepened as well as extended.

We need a cyber technology immediately that is operative in Third World and other oppressed environments lacking electronic and communication services. There are however ten million African Americans online, which provides a unique opportunity for Africans at home and abroad. Africans and African intellectuals must develop new mechanisms, fresh perspectives, and cooperative outreach that inform our peoples what is going on and how the tide can be turned favorably for black progress internationally.

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

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Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock  market. True wealth has more to do with what's in your heart than what's in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America's shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, "Happy can make you money, but money can't make you happy."

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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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 Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 7 January 2012




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