One of the biggest challenges
African people face in America is to rejuvenate Black Nationalist
thinking as struggle to determine for ourselves as a people what is
in our best collective interests.
There are far too many African
people in this country who think what is good for other people should
be good for us. Nothing could be further from the truth. We can only
determine what is good for us by reestablishing Black Nationalist
thinking and developing a Black Nationalist program of action. This
is the missing link to the liberation of African people in America.
Let us briefly review the development and impact of Black Nationalism
Black Nationalism is a tradition
that emerged in the early nineteenth-century among those Black
leaders who understood the need for African people in America to
develop a national entity as the only solution for Black people in
North America, Latin America, or the Caribbean.
These nineteenth-century Black
Nationalist leaders such as Denmark Vessey, Nat Turner, David Walker,
Henry Highland Garnet, James T. Holly, Martin R. Delany, Pap
Singleton, Edwin McCabe, and Henry McNeal Turner understood that
African people in America were a “nation within a nation”
and should organize to collectively struggle for the liberation of
Black people in this country and throughout the world.
During this era there were some
Black Nationalist leaders before, and after the Civil War, who led
movements for people of African ancestry to leave this country and
establish a homeland somewhere else. These proposals included Africa,
Canada, and the Caribbean.
Other Black Nationalist leaders led
movements for Black people to control the towns where they lived and
others who led movements to the western region of this country to
establish all Black towns in Kansas and Oklahoma.
The core of this Black Nationalist
tradition has been to defeat and overthrow the system of white
supremacy, seize control of land (somewhere) and to achieve self
determination for the oppressed Black masses.
The Black Nationalist tradition has
always been opposed to integrations, assimilation, and accommodation
as a solution to the problems of people of African ancestry in
America. In this regard, Black Nationalist tradition has rejected the
strategy and tactics of appealing to the morality of white people and
their white supremacy system.
Black Nationalists have been
historically clear that people in power don’t teach powerless
people how to get power. And they certainly don’t give power
away, even though, when challenged, they may give up some
As Black Nationalism emerged in the
twentieth-century, the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey and the
establishment of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA)
and the African Communicates League (ACL) became the leading
spokesman for Black Nationalist ideas and organizing.
Garvey used his varied skills to
become on of our true twentieth-century freedom fighters. Garvey
arrived in Harlem, New York on March 16, 1916. By 1919, Garvey was
well established as the President General of the UNIA/ACL that had
membership of over three million people with more than three hundred
branches in the United States.
Perhaps Garvey’s greatest
contribution to the upliftment of our people, through Black
Nationalism, was his ability to find a formula for organizing African
people around the African principle: the greatest good for the
This was reflected in the First
International Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World, in
Madison Square Garden, in 1920. Over twenty thousand Black people
from all over the world witnessed the choosing of Red, Black, and
Green as the colors of the Provisional Government.
In this context, Garvey and the
UNIA/ACL had established an economic arm, the Negro Factories
Corporation, with cooperative stores, restaurants, steam laundry
ships, tailor shops, dressmaking shops, millinery stores, a doll
factory to manufacture Black dolls and a publishing house. Also,
Garvey formed a Steamship Corporation.
The Black Nationalist tradition was
continued in the twentieth-century through the Nation of Islam and
the Honorable Elijah Muhammad who utilized many of the Garvey and
UNIA/ACL organizing tactics and strategies.
It was during the 1960s Black Power
explosion that the Black Nationalist tradition reemerged through the
influence of Malcolm X who adopted Black Nationalism as the political
philosophy, economic and social philosophy of the organization of
Afro American Unity in 1964 after he left the Nation of Islam.
Finally, the Black Nationalist
tradition, today, is spearheaded through the African Centered
Education Movement. The mass acceptance of Kwanzaa, African
Liberation Day, Buy Black Campaigns, the Reparations Movement, and
Controlling Our Own Communities Campaigns are all part of the ongoing
Black Nationalist tradition.
Without vigorous Black Nationalist
thinking and an aggressive Black Nationalist program of action, we
will continue to chase false dreams created by our oppressors. We
must put an end to this!
Once Black Nationalism is understood
by all Black people, it will be the foundation upon which the true
liberation of people of African ancestry in America will take place.