back to africa movement

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August 17th 1887: Marcus Garvey born

On this day in 1887, black activist Marcus Garvey was born in Jamaica. The youngest of eleven children, the young Garvey was a keen reader, but left school aged fourteen to begin working as an apprentice. In his early twenties, Garvey traveled extensively around Central and Southern America, writing about the exploitation of migrant labour, and attended university in the United Kingdom. In 1914, once back in Jamaica, Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), and, after corresponding with Booker T. Washington, moved to New York City to promote the movement. Marcus Garvey was a passionate and electrifying speaker, touring the United States eloquently arguing for pride in African-American heritage and promoting black nationalism. He is best known as an advocate of the ‘Back to Africa’ movement, which urged African-Americans to return to their ancestral homeland to strive for economic and social freedom, facilitated by Garvey’s Black Star Line company. He was also a proponent of pan-Africanism, a movement which calls for the unity of the African diaspora to empower and uplift people of African descent. By 1920, the UNIA claimed four million members from around the world. Garvey’s actions provoked the ire of white Americans and the United States government, and in 1922 he was arrested for alleged mail fraud. In what was likely a politically-motivated case, Garvey was imprisoned and later deported to Jamaica. Marcus Garvey died in London in 1940, aged fifty-two, but is remembered today as the inspiration for the Nation of Islam and Rastafari movements, and as a major black civil rights leader.

“We have a beautiful history, and we shall create another in the future that will astonish the world”

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Taking a bunch of kids from Action Enfance Sénégal to the mayor’s office at Sicap Mbao, Dakar.

The done thing when visiting a mayor is apparently to done all kinds of improvised traditional tribal gear, and sing really loudly outside his office….the mayor only came and spoke to us for like 2 minutes before going back inside.

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Today in Black History- February 8th, 2014

  • On this day in 1990, Andy Rooney suspended for racist comments. Andy Rooney, a CBS “60 Minutes” commentator, received a 90-day suspension from work because of racist remarks about African Americans attributed to him by Chris Bull, a New York-based reporter for “The Advocate,” a bi-weekly national gay & lesbian newsmagazine published in Los Angeles. Bull quoted Rooney as having said during an interview: “I’ve believed all along that most people are born with equal intelligence, but Blacks have watered down their genes because the less intelligent ones are the ones that have the children. They drop out of school early, do drugs, and get pregnant.”

  • On this day in 1996, Figure skater Debi Thomas wins the Women’s Singles. Debra Janine “Debi” Thomas ( is an American figure skater and physician. She is the 1986 World champion, two-time U.S. national champion and 1988 Olympic bronze medalist, having taken part in the Battle of the Carmens at those games.Thomas became the first African American to win the Women’s Singles of the U.S. National Figure Skating Championship competition, was a pre-med student at Stanford University.

  • On this day in 1986, Oprah Winfrey becomes the first African American woman to host a nationally syndicated talk show.Oprah Gail Winfrey  is an American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist. Winfrey is best known for her multi-award-winning talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show which was the highest-rated program of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2011. She has been ranked the richest African-American of the 20th century, the greatest black philanthropist in American history,and is currently North America’s only black billionaire. She is also, according to some assessments, the most influential woman in the world. In 2013, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama and an honorary doctorate degree from Harvard.

  • On this day in 1985, Brenda Renee Pearson an official court reporter for the House of Representatives was the first black female to record the State of the Union message delivered by the president in the House chambers.

  • On this day in 1978, Leon Spinks defeated Muhammad Ali for heavyweight boxing championship. Ali regained the title on September 15 and became the person to win the title three times. Spinks is an American former boxer, who had an overall record of 26 wins, 17 losses and three draws as a professional, with 14 of those wins by knockout. In only his eighth professional bout, Spinks won the undisputed world heavyweight championship when he beat Muhammad Ali on February 15, 1978, in what was considered one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. However, he was stripped of the WBC title for fighting Ali in an unapproved rematch seven months later, which he lost by a 15-round unanimous decision. Besides being heavyweight champion and his characteristic gap-toothed grin (due to losing two and later all four of his front teeth), Spinks gained notoriety for the disaster which befell his career following the loss to Ali.

  • On this day in 1974, Lieutenant-Colonel Aboubakar Sangoulé Lamizana, president of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), ousted the prime minister, dissolved the parliament and suspended the 1970 constitution. Major General Aboubakar Sangoulé Lamizana was the second president of Upper Volta (since 1984 renamed Burkina Faso), in power from January 3, 1966 to November 25, 1980. He held the additional position of Prime Minister from February 8, 1974 to July 7, 1978.
  • On this day in 1968, Gary Coleman was born in Zion, Illinois. Gary Wayne Coleman was an American actor, known for his childhood role as Arnold Jackson in the American sitcom Diff’rent Strokes (1978–1986) and for his small stature as an adult. He was described in the 1980s as “one of television’s most promising stars”. After a successful childhood acting career, Coleman struggled financially later in life. In 1989, he successfully sued his parents and business advisor over misappropriation of his assets, only to declare bankruptcy a decade later. in 2003, he was a candidate for the California recall election and later on placed 8th out of 135 candidates, receiving 14,242 votes. 

  • On this day in 1968, Officers killed three students during demonstration on the campus of South Carolina State in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Students were protesting segregation at an Orangeburg bowling alley. The Orangeburg massacre is the most common name given to an incident in which nine South Carolina Highway Patrol officers in Orangeburg, South Carolina, fired into a crowd of protesters demonstrating against segregation at a bowling alley near the campus of South Carolina State College, a historically black college. Three men were killed and twenty-eight persons were injured; most victims were shot in the back. One of the injured was a pregnant woman. She had a miscarriage a week later due to her beating by the police. It was the first unrest on a university campus resulting in deaths of protesters in the U.S.The event pre-dated the 1970 Kent State shootings and Jackson State killings, in which the National Guard at Kent State, and police and state highway patrol at Jackson State killed student protesters demonstrating against the United States invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

  • On this day in 1964, Malcolm X founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little and also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz] (Arabic: الحاجّ مالك الشباز‎), was an African-American Muslim minister and a human rights activist. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of blacks, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans; detractors accused him of preaching racism and violence. He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history. The Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) was a Pan-Africanist organization founded by Malcolm X in 1964. The OAAU was modeled on the Organisation of African Unity, which had impressed Malcolm X during his visit to Africa in April and May 1964. The purpose of the OAAU was to fight for the human rights of African Americans and promote cooperation among Africans and people of African descent in the Americas.

  • On this date in 1944, Harry S. McAlpin was the first African American journalist admitted to a white house press conference.McAlpin covered Presidents Roosevelt and Truman for fifty-one black newspapers. He was also a Navy war correspondent and spokesman for the Department of Agriculture. Later McAlpin practiced law in Louisville, Kentucky, and was president of the local chapter of the NAACP. He died in 1985.

  • On this day in 1925, Marcus Garvey was taken to Atlanta Federal Penitentiary and incarcerated for his conviction of mail fraud. Students staged a strike at Fisk University to protest the policies of the white administration. He was later on deported back to Jamaica from New Orleans after Coolidge commuted his sentence.Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., ONH was a Jamaican political leader, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator who was a staunch proponent of the Black nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements, to which end he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). He founded the Black Star Line, part of the Back-to-Africa movement, which promoted the return of the African diaspora to their ancestral lands.Prior to the twentieth century, leaders such as Prince Hall, Martin Delany, Edward Wilmot Blyden, and Henry Highland Garnet advocated the involvement of the African diaspora in African affairs. Garvey was unique in advancing a Pan-African philosophy to inspire a global mass movement and economic empowerment focusing on Africa known as Garveyism. Promoted by the UNIA as a movement of African Redemption, Garveyism would eventually inspire others, ranging from the Nation of Islam to the Rastafari movement (which proclaims Garvey as a prophet).Garveyism intended persons of African ancestry in the diaspora to “redeem” the nations of Africa and for the European colonial powers to leave the continent. His essential ideas about Africa were stated in an editorial in the Negro World entitled “African Fundamentalism”, where he wrote: “Our union must know no clime, boundary, or nationality… to let us hold together under all climes and in every country”

  • On this day in 1894, Congress repeals the Enforcement Act which makes it easier for some states to disenfranchise African American voters.The Enforcement Acts were three bills passed by the United States Congress between 1870 and 1871. They were criminal codes which protected blacks’ right to vote, to hold office, to serve on juries, and receive equal protection of laws. The laws also allowed the federal government to intervene when states did not act. These acts were passed following the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave full citizenship to anyone born in the United States or freed slaves, and the Fifteenth Amendment, which banned racial discrimination in voting. At the time, the lives of all newly freed slaves, and their political and economic rights were being threatened. This threat led to the creation of the Enforcement Acts.

  • On this day in 1884, Cetshwayo, king of the Zulus, died. Cetshwayo kaMpande was the King of the Zulu Kingdom from 1872 to 1879 and their leader during the Anglo-Zulu War (1879). His name has been transliterated as Cetawayo, Cetewayo, Cetywajo and Ketchwayo. He famously led the Zulu nation to victory against the British in the Battle of Isandlwana.

  • On this day in 1734, Intendant Gilles Hocquart issued an ordinance to curb slave escapes, directing the militia to recover a runaway and imposing fines on those who aided him in New France (now called Quebec). Hocquart was born in 1694, in Sainte-Croix, Mortagne-au-Perche to Jean-Hyacinthe Hocquart. From September, 1729 to August, 1748, Hocquart served as Intendant of New France, this being the longest lasting intendancy contract in the colony’s history. Hocquart put his faith in the Canadian bourgeoisie as the main player in the development of a profitable economy for the colony. Although his ideas were grand, he did not recognize the flaws that were already impeding the economy at a smaller scale. After a few rentable years, New France’s fragile economy began to crumble, and by the end of his contract, Hocquart was held responsible for too many extraodinary expenses. He was called home and replaced by Francois Bigot. Nonetheless, the years between 1737 and 1741 were among the most prosperous in the history of New France.

Africa and Black Pride in 1960s America

…Africa had become a hugely important symbol for the new black pride movement in America. Prior to the mid-sixties, most blacks had given short shrift to our African past, seeing it as something remote and irrelevant, if not downright embarrassing. We knew very little about Africa. Our great urgency had been to overcome the discrimination that kept us from fully joining the modern world that we found ourselves in.

Moreover, the specter of Africa had been embarrassing to blacks because it fed into the idea that race was a strict determinism—that race was destiny. Put bluntly, it suggest that the “inferiority” that defined African Blacks in American popular culture (Tarzan movies, etc.) also defined American blacks. The racial imagery of Africa argued for white supremacy, not against it.

Thus black nationalism’s embrace of black Africa in the 1960s was both a defiant and psychologically revolutionary move in black America. It idealized Africa (just as Marcus Garvey’s “Back to Africa” movement had done in the 1920s) into a black “golden age”—a fantasy territory where blacks had once lived idyllically as masters of their own fate and at one with God and nature. And from this Africa/Eden, blacks had been abducted into bondage by evil whites. But black nationalism was also, in its way, a legitimate psychic recovery effort. It sought to transform a mark of shame into a symbol of pride. It gave back to blacks their own history as one of the world’s great stories—a journey narrative in which blacks were stolen out of an ancient black unity and cast into a terrible diaspora by the slave trade and then, after much suffering and overcoming, finally delivered to a new unity in the modern world.

Black nationalism in the 1960s pretended to be that new unity. “Blackness” (a word unheard of before the mid-sixties) was a vision of racial wholeness. It was an atavistic vision in which we blacks were connected by blood to that long-ago black unity, and now we would be restored to it in the modern world. This nationalism was primarily a redemption fantasy; it was a balm against the diminishment and suffering that American racism had actually subjected us to. It was a compensatory mythology that made us a little bigger than life to counterbalance all the denigration we had endured. Unfortunately, its gaze was always backward; it pined for a unity like we had supposedly known in our long-ago golden age—that time before the white man, before our fall. So just as America was finally opening real opportunities to us (university educations, entrée to corporate employment, the chance to run for political office), black nationalism was offering only the empty consolation of racial grandiosity, a kind of black supremacy. It had no idea how to guide us toward success in a modern society that was capitalistic and intensely competitive. To its credit, it wanted blackness to be a source of pride, but it had no real social capital to offer, no hard utilitarian knowledge of how we might achieve the concrete success in the actual world that would give substance to pride.

excerpted from Shelby Steele, Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country(2015) pp.82-84