Black Nationalism and Independence Movements

Among black Americans, emphasizing their African origins and identity, their pride in being black, their desire to control their own communities, and sometimes the desire to establish a black nation in Africa or some part of the United States. The exact origins of black nationalist movements are lost in the largely unwritten history of blacks in early America, but it is clear that such movements began as protests against the brutal and dehumanizing conditions of SLAVERY. A few records indicate that early African protest against slavery conditions had overtones of black nationalism. Organized black nationalist movements appear to have begun with Paul Cuffe (1759-1817), a black sea captain.

Between 1811 and 1815 he made the first attempt to establish a black American colony in Africa, transporting several dozen people to Africa. Early in the 20th century W. E. B. DU BOIS developed a sophisticated rationale for a Pan-African movement that would join blacks in America and Africa. But not until after 1910 did a mass movement emerge with black nationalism as its central theme. The leader of this new movement, Marcus GARVEY, recruited thousands into his Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Its goals included a black nation oriented toward Africa but controlled by black Americans. The UNIA developed the first major black capitalist enterprises, including restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, and a steamship line. Because of antagonism from whites and mismanagement at the top, this movement failed, but it was soon followed by a number of Africa-oriented movements, the most important of which was the Nation of Islam, known inaccurately as the Black Muslims.

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Marcus Garvey’s “Back to Africa” movement developed the spirit of Ethiopianism to its fullest extent….since the white people have seen their God through white spectacles, we have only now started out (late though it be) to see our God through our own spectacles. The God of Isaac and the God of Jacob let him exist for the race that believe in the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. We Negroes believe in the God of Ethiopia, the everlasting God — God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, the one God of all ages. That is the God in whom we believe, but we shall worship him through the spectacles of Ethiopia..

The Universal Improvement Association represents the hopes and aspirations of the awakened Negro. “Our desire is for a place in the world, not to disturb the tranquility of other men, but to lay down our burden and rest our weary backs and feet by the banks of the Niger and sing our songs and chant our hymns to the God of Ethiopia”. Garvey’s goal of repatriation was expressed in his famous slogan “Africa for the Africans.” His well-known Black Star Line steamship company was established to trade and eventually carry New World blacks to Africa. This prophet of African redemption was not always successfull in his countless business ventures, but by the 1920s Garvey was the most powerful leader among the black masses in the United States.

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Black Nationalism and Independence Movements. (2018, Jul 09). Retrieved from