Posts Tagged ‘THE BLACK RACE’


April 16, 2015



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A glorious celebration for the life of Dr. Ben

Herb Boyd | 4/11/2015, 3:22 p.m.
While there is no dismissing the glorious encomiums for the late Dr. Yosef A.A. ben-Jochannan—and they were as full of ...

The funeral of the late Dr. Yosef A.A. ben-Jochannan Derek Muhammad
While there is no dismissing the glorious encomiums for the late Dr. Yosef A.A. ben-Jochannan—and they were as full of praise as the many dispensers—the priceless item at his more than three-hour funeral service at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem was the printed program. One thing was certain upon being lucky enough to get one was the prediction that they would not have a sufficient supply for the massive turnout.
An even safer prediction was that many of the hundreds of admirers of the great scholar would not be able to get in the church in the first place, and like the overflow crowd at the wake and viewing on Thursday, many had to settle for the celebration outside the church at the end of the services.

Professor James Small had the awesome responsibility of moderating the “service of commemoration and the Initiation into the Duat,” as the ceremony was called. Looking at the long list of speakers, performers and proclamations he advised the participants that “you have two minutes for your remarks,” he said, “and only Dr. Jeffries can have an extended African two minutes.” It brought the expected laughter from a packed church, especially from those familiar with Dr. Leonard Jeffries’ long, history-laden speeches. And later he and his wife, Dr. Rosalind Jeffries, would speak in tandem, both stressing an “African identity” and keeping to the limits.
“Dr. Ben is not gone, he’s right here,” said veteran activist and cultural maven Camille Yarbrough during her delivery of the libations. She asked the audience to “just breathe” deeply and reflect on Dr. Ben’s spirit.
After the collective breath was exhaled, Minister Akbar Muhammad was called to the podium and, for the most part, he read a message from Minister Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam. It was a message of unity and solidarity with understanding that Dr. Ben was a historian “from whose lessons we can learn from the past.”
Listening to someone read from the Book of Vindication must have been a first time experience for most of those in attendance. And it was during this reading that “Mut the mother of heaven” was mentioned and “heaven” would be almost a running gag for the rest of the ceremony, particularly where it was variously located by different speakers.
Professor Small, a leopard skin print draped over his shoulders, kept things moving at a good clip, and often dropping his own observations of his mentor. “Dr. Ben gave us the foundation to understand our eternity,” he remarked before asking Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts, III to read the obituary. Among the highlights of Dr. Ben’s enormously productive 96 years—he joined the ancestor on March 19—Butts recalled was that he was a versatile genius who wrote more than 40 books. “He will be remembered as a brilliant historian, committed to the uplift and enlightenment of the global African community. He will also be remembered as charismatic with an enormous sense of humor. And at the same time, as being straight, forthright, and even confrontational if he detected lies, deceit, or falsehoods.”

Olivia Holloway ·

Dr Ben will always be important to myself and a great many more every last one of us is grateful for opening our eyes to the glorious ness of who we really are as a people his spirit will forever be with us
Dellin J. Cooke ·

i owe such much of my understanding to Dr.Ben was in the darkness to my existence as a black man in America thought the bible was the truth an I was the this descendant of a slave with no past just the one that the Europeans wrote for me. Dr.Ben showed me I had a history an knew GOD long before this faireytale book f lies Dr.Ben an Dr.Clarke will never be forgotten.
Delinda Wills Thomas ·

Thanks so much for the LIVE STREAM of Dr. Ben’s celebration of his life and for allowing me to meet family members, historians, ministers, attorneys, and others who talked about the realities his life and works,..Dr. Ben taught me the truths about me, my people and opened my mind to further research, readings, teachings to carry the African Centered baton of his findings,..He will always live on through me and others,..
Nefertina Abrams ·

The Great Pharaoh is on his journey sent with great love, admiration and respect, I was blessed to attend the Wake which was phenominal… I laughed, I cheered, I cried, I sighed, but most of all I Gave Thanks for his life and his legacy…
Aku A King

Yes….just as there were hundreds clamoring to be a part of this moment, physically….. I, like many others, were there as we “watched”, very closely, every movement on and offstage…thanks to AMSTERDAM NEWS and LIVESTREAM…… We were THERE…..and we are STILL there….. AKOBEN!!!!


March 8, 2013



















The Orishas
The orishas are the emissaries of Olodumare or God almighty. They rule over the forces of nature and the endeavors of humanity. They recognise themselves and are recognised through their different numbers and colors which are their marks, and each has their own favorite foods and other things which they like to receive as offerings and gifts. In this way we make our offerings in the manner they are accustomed to, in the way they have always received them, so that they will recognise our offerings and come to our aid.

The orishas are often best understood by observing the forces of nature they rule over. For instance, you can learn much about Oshún and her children by watching the rivers and streams she rules over and observing that though she always heads toward her sister Yemayá (the Sea) she does so on her own circuitous route. Also observe how the babbling brook and the flash flood reflect her changeable moods. As you observe the orishas at work in the world and in your own lives you will gain a better understanding of them and their ways. Yes, they are complex, but no more so than any other living being such as you or I. We are also blessed from time to time in the religion with the opportunity to meet the orishas face to face during a wemilere (drumming ceremony) where one or more of their priests will be mounted (see trance possession).


Elegguá is the owner of the roads and doors in this world. He is the repository of ashé. The colors red and black or white and black are his and codify his contradictory nature. In particular, Elegguá stands at the crossroads of the human and the divine, as he is child-like messenger between the two worlds. In this role, it is not surprising that he has a very close relationship with the orisha of divination, Orunmila. Nothing can be done in either world without his permission. Elegguá is always propitiated and called first before any other orisha as he opens the door between the worlds and opens our roads in life. He recognises himself and is recognised by the numbers 3 and 21.

Prayer for Eleggua: Echu obá loná tosí gbogbo ona iré o aché

Ogún is the god of iron, war and labor. He is the owner of all technology and because this technology shares in his nature, it is almost always used first for war. As Elegguá opens the roads, it is Ogún that clears the roads with his machete. He is recognised in the numbers 7 and the colors green and black.

Prayer for Ogun: Ogún oko dara obaniché aguanile ichegún iré

Oshosi is the third member of the group known as the Guerreros or Warriors, and is received along with Elegguá, Ogún and Osun in order to protect the Guerreros initiate and to open and clear their roads. Oshosi is the hunter and the scout of the orishas and assumes the role of enforcer of justice for Obatalá with whom he has a very close relationship. His colors are blue and yellow.

Prayer for Ochossi: Ochosi Ode mata obá akofá ayé o unsó iré o wa mi Ochosi omode aché

Obatalá is the kindly father of all the orishas and all humanity. He is also the owner of all heads and the mind. Though it was Olorun who created the universe, it is Obatalá who is the creator of the world and humanity. Obatalá is the source of all that is pure, wise peaceful and compassionate. He has a warrior side though through which he enforces justice in the world. His color is white which is often accented with red, purple and other colors to represent his/her different paths. White is most appropriate for Obatalá as it contains all the colors of the rainbow yet is above them. Obatalá is also the only orisha that has both male and female paths.

Prayer for Obatala: Obatalá obá layé ela iwo alara aché

Oyá is the ruler of the winds, the whirlwind and the gates of the cemetery. Her number is nine which recalls her title of Yansá or “Mother of Nine” in which she rules over the egun or dead. She is also known for the colors of maroon, flowery patterns and nine different colors. She is a fierce warrior who rides to war with Shangó (sharing lightning and fire with him) and was once the wife of Ogún.

Oshún rules over the sweet waters of the world, the brooks, streams and rivers, embodying love, fertility. She also is the one we most often approach to aid us in money matters. She is the youngest of the female orishas but retains the title of Iyalode or great queen. She heals with her sweet waters and with honey which she also owns. She is the femme fatale of the orishas and once saved the world by luring Ogún out of the forests using her feminine wiles. And,in her path or manifestation of Ibú Ikolé she saved the world from draught by flying up to heaven (turning into a vulture in the process). Ikolé means Messenger of the House (of Olodumare). For this reason all who are to be initiated as priests, no matter what orisha rules their head, must go to the river and give account of what they are about to do. She recognises herself in the colors yellow and gold and her number is five. Peacocks and vultures are hers and we use them often to represent her.

Yemayá lives and rules over the seas and lakes. She also rules over maternity in our lives as she is the Mother of All. Her name, a shortened version of Yeyé Omo Eja means “Mother Whose Children are the Fish” to reflect the fact that her children are uncountable. All life started in the sea, the amneotic fluid inside the mother’s womb is a form of sea where the embryo must transform and evolve through the form of a fish before becoming a human baby. In this way Yemayá displays herself as truly the mother of all. She partakes of Olokun’s abundance as the source of all riches which she freely gives to her little sister Oshún. She dresses herself in seven skirts of blue and white and like the seas and profound lakes she is deep and unknowable. In her path of Okutti she is the queen of witches carrying within her deep and dark secrets. Her number is seven for the seven seas, her colors are blue and white, and she is most often represented by the fish who are her children.

Prayer for Yemaya: Iyá eyá ayaba okun omá iré gbogbo awani Iyá

Perhaps the most ‘popular’ of the orishas, Shangó rules over lightning, thunder, fire, the drums and dance. He is a warrior orisha with quick wits, quick temper and is the epitomy of virility. Shangó took the form of the fourth Alafin (supreme king) of Oyó on Earth for a time. He is married to Obba but has relations with Oyá and Oshún. He is an extremely hot blooded and strong-willed orisha that loves all the pleasures of the world: dance, drumming, women, song and eating. He is ocanani with Elegguá, meaning they are of one heart. When sees the quickness with which lightning makes short work of a tree or a fire rage through an area, one has witnessed the temper of Shangó in action. Though he traded the Table of Ifá to Orunmila in exchange for the gift of dance, his children have an innate ability for divination. To acknowledge the greatness of this king, all in the religion raise up on the toes of our feet (or rise out our chairs if we are sitting) at the mention of his name. His colors are red and white and he recognises himself in the numbers four and six. He is most often represented by a double headed axe.

Prayer for Shango: Shangó obá adé oko, obá ina, Alafin Oyó aché o

Orunmila is the orisha of wisdom, knowledge and divination. He was the only orisha allowed to witness the creation of the universe by Olorun and bears witness to our destinies in the making as well. This is the source of his title of Eleri Ipin or “Witness to Destiny in its Creation”. His priests, the babalawos or “Fathers of the Secrets” must devote themselves entirely to the practice of divination and the accompanying arts. Through the Table of Ifá his priests unfold the secrets of the universe and the secrets of the unfolding of our lives. His colors are green and yellow which reflect Orunmila’s relationship with Osayín (the secrets of the plant world) and with Oshún, who is his apetebí with whom he has an extremely close relationship.

Prayer for Orunmila: Orunmila Ibikeyi Oludumare ela isode aché


March 15, 2012





Thursday, March 15, 2012

Uploaded by historycomestolife on Mar 20, 2011

Top Comments

I agree with Muhammed Ali’s racial seperatism, and I am a white man
flash34able 7 months ago 5
Yep I agree with Ali, I love my race of women. Any black man who doesn’t agree and would rather have a child that looks NOTHING like him obviously has some insecurities.
The1Heart1 7 months ago 4

see all
All Comments (12)
Respond to this video…

yeyeolade 1 second ago

@pedrom41 I have nothing against anyone perfering and dating there own as long as they don’t harrass those who choose to date otherwise or look otherwise based on there race.
hydrolito 5 days ago
The preservation of an ethnicity is simply an impossibility. Diversity is the key of evolution as well as power. This is why the most successful countries are inclusive and don’t discriminate against others. Examples includes The Mongols, The arabic nations in the middle ages and most of the western world. You guys are idiots if you seriously think that people are merely extensions of a race rather the individuals.
PinkHeartChainsaw 2 months ago
I totally agree. I am Russian and I want to preserve my people. Political correctness talks about diversity but mixing destroys both peoples so that in the end, we’re all just some random mix, where is the diversity then?
Mr. Ali speaks a sentiment which we all feel but political correctness seeks to censor.
ForImperium 3 months ago
Has anyone seen his daughters? He had a baby with another black woman but yet his kids look mixed race.
MrCherubhair1 4 months ago
Muhammad Ali is awesome!
SGTLima66 5 months ago
@The1Heart1 TRUE DAT
Netertaat 6 months ago
I, too, agree with Ali’s comments.If I don’t want to marry or date a white woman that doesn’t mean that I hate white people. It simply means that I prefer and feel more confortable staying with my own. What’s wrong with that? Conversely, I don’t hold as a racist a white person who prefers date and marry his/her own.
pedrom41 7 months ago 2


March 15, 2012

Ife researchers unveil local language text-to-voice application – 234next

Move over twitter. Nigerian texters unhappy that their messages can only be accessed by people able to read in English Language can now breathe easier as local researchers have concluded work on an application that renders texts in local languages in audio.

To help secure, protect, and bring back most of the local languages that are going into extinction, Information and Communication Technology researchers at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, last week unveiled the technology through which texts are converted into voice messages in Nigerian indigenous languages by the recipient’s handset.

The research work is led by Tunji Odejobi, a local computer expert in constraint satisfaction and programming and Rick Wallace, a professor at the Cork University, Ireland.

“Even if you don’t even know how to read and write in the formal sense of it, the technology can leverage that,” Mr Odejobi said.

“So technology has redefined what we call literacy now. But the key item in this is the use of language. If you want to a local language that doesn’t speak your language, then you can use technology to get your mind across to such people. That is what we have done. You can use what we are doing today to achieve such communication in various languages between the sender and receivers of a message. If we don’t do this, we are just going to kill our languages silently. It can help smoothen the culture by having common language of communication and giving other languages a place to showcase their values and culture too,” he added.
Source: 234next news
August 15, 2011 By Bunmi Awolusi


March 4, 2012


“Speak, Garvey, Speak!”A Follower Recalls a Garvey Rally
The Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey, a brilliant orator and black nationalist leader, turned his Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) into the most important black organization in the United States in the early 1920s. Garvey’s speeches often drew huge audiences, and stories of Garvey’s stubborn resistance in the face of white hostility proliferated among his supporters. In an oral history interview, devotee Audley Moore remembered the Jamaican’s defiant behavior at a rally in New Orleans caused “the [white] police [to] file out . . . like little puppy dogs with their tails behind them.” She proudly recalled the crowd intimidating the police by raising their guns and chanting “speak, Garvey, speak.”
Listen to Audio: Queen Mother Audley Moore: They didn’t want Garvey to speak in New Orleans. We had a delegation to go to the mayor, and the next night, they allowed him to come. And we all was armed. Everybody had bags of ammunition, too. So when Garvey came in, we applauded, and the police were lined man to man along the line of each bench. So Mr. Garvey said, “My friends, I want to apologize for not speaking to you last night. But the reason I didn’t was because the mayor of the city of New Orleans committed himself to act as a stooge for the police department to prevent me from speaking.” And the police jumped up and said, “I’ll run you in.”When he did this, everybody jumped up on the benches and pulled out their guns and just held the guns up in the air and said, “Speak, Garvey, speak.”And Garvey said, “As I was saying,” and he went on and repeated what he had said before, and the police filed out the hall like little puppy dogs with their tails behind them. So that was radical enough. I had two guns with me, one in my bosom and one in my pocketbook, little 38 specials.
Source: Interview done by the Oral History of the American Left, Tamiment Library, NYU for the public radio program Grandma Was An Activist, producers Charlie Potter and Beth Friend.


Marcus Garvey Lives! Legacy Carried Forward by the ASI
Aug 17
Posted by Enaemaehkiw Túpac Keshena
Today, August 17, is the birthday of Marcus Garvey, one of the most important anti-imperialist leaders of the last 150 years. In celebration I am reposting the following article from the August 2006 issue of The Burning Spear Newspaper, the organ of the African People’s Socialist Party.
Each August, growing numbers of Africans around the world celebrate the birth of Marcus Mosiah Garvey who was born on August 17, 1887 in St. Ann’s Bay, Saint Ann, Jamaica.
The celebration of Garvey’s birth date is due to the fact that since the attack on Africa that led to the capture, dispersal and enslavement of millions of Africans and the colonization and balkanization of Africa, no African has been more instrumental in creating the vision of a free and liberated Africa and African people. No African has been more successful in setting the example for organized resistance that would result in the liberation and unification of Africa and African people everywhere.
Garvey, more than anyone, contributed to the ideas advancing the existence of African people as a dispersed nation to be liberated from imperialism and served by our own all-African government in Africa.
In 1914, Garvey organized the Universal Negro Improvement Association in Jamaica. At the time, the UNIA was conceived as a fraternal reform association that would work for the upliftment of African people through the creation of educational institutions and industrial opportunities. However, it was only after his location to Harlem in 1916 that the organization began to achieve rapid growth.
By 1920, there were more than a thousand UNIA branches and divisions around the world. In August of 1920 at its first convention, held in Madison Square Garden in New York, more than 25,000 Africans from Africa and virtually everywhere else Africans had been forcibly dispersed, came together in a month-long display of unity and organization never before witnessed by Africans or anyone else.
The UNIA, which would become the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, was comprised of members and followers who were mostly working class. This was one of the most important reasons for its strength, estimated at being from 6 to 11 million members and followers, and also one of the reasons it was greatly feared and hated by various imperialist governments and significant sectors of African middle class leadership, most of which saw assimilation into U.S. imperialist society as the only way to achieve their aspirations.
Garvey Makes Incredible Accomplishment in Building Steamship Line
In 1919, the UNIA founded the Black Star Line Steamship Corporation. This was one of several ventures that included the Universal Printing House, the Negro Factories Corporation, and the Negro World Newspaper, printed in three languages.
Marcus Garvey built a single internationl economic capacity for African people in the eraly 1900s that has not yet been duplicated. This was on of the many aspect of Garvey’s work to consolidate a single African nation.
All of these were among the efforts to create an economy around which the oppressed and dispersed African nation would be organized. Central to these efforts was the Black Star Line that was to initiate trade between Africans worldwide.
The Black Star Line venture failed because of a number of factors including inexperience on the part of Garvey and the UNIA. And, while the ineptitude of Garvey and the UNIA is something all his detractors, then and now, love to expound on as being the reason for the failure of the Black Star Line, this explanation overlooks the fact that this was not the primary reason for its failure. It also overlooks the significance of the creation of the Black Star Line.
The fact is that Garvey and the UNIA built a steam ship line in 1919 when almost the whole African world lived under white colonial domination, the exceptions being the nominal independence of Liberia and Ethiopia. Additionally, this was only a little more than 50 years after the formal emancipation of enslaved Africans in the U.S. and during the year that was the bloodiest in post-emancipation America in terms of anti-African terror launched by whites in the U.S.
Clearly, this was not a sign of ineptitude. If anything, it was miraculous.
Also, the hostility of the U.S. and white society to African economic advancement during the period is revealed in the fact that only two years after the launching of the Black Star Line, the Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma was attacked and bombed, destroying it. Today no one claims that the destruction in Tulsa was due to the ineptitude of the African business people there.
No. Ineptitude was not the primary factor in the failure of the Black Star Line. The most critical factor in its failure was the active opposition and sabotage by the U.S. government, the white left, and the African petty bourgeoisie. The Communist Party USA worked tirelessly to undermine Garvey while the NAACP and W.E.B. Du Bois actively sought the support of the U.S. attorney general to acquire a ship that could be used to destroy the Black Star Line.
Along with the white left and African petty bourgeois active opposition, the Bureau of Investigation (precursor to the FBI), launched its own vicious campaign to rid the imperialist world of Marcus Garvey and the UNIA. In 1922, Garvey would be indicted by the U.S. government on contrived charges of using the mail to defraud through sale of the Black Star Line stock.
Though the charge was politically motivated and facilitated by agents who worked within the Black Star Line for the U.S. government, Garvey was tried and imprisoned in 1925. He spent two years in prison before being released and deported to Jamaica.
The movement that Garvey led would never be the same after his imprisonment and deportation. Agents and opportunists within the organization and enemies without were finally able to render the UNIA ineffective. Garvey, from his location in Jamaica and separated from the connections and membership in the U.S. — which was then becoming a major imperialist center — was unable to effectively defend the organization. On June 10, 1940, Marcus Mosiah Garvey died in relative obscurity in London, England.
Garvey Initiated Process of Creating a United, Liberated Africa that Influenced Other Oppressed Peoples’ Struggles
However, the legacy of Marcus Garvey lives today. And it should, despite the barrage of slander that had been unleashed against him when alive and despite the efforts by U.S. and European imperialists and African petty bourgeois liberals to erase him from history.
Garvey was not only the man who moved toward constructing a unifying national economy and a vision for African liberation, unification and redemption. He was also voted by oppressed Africans from around the world as the provisional president of Africa when Africa suffered under the book of direct white power colonialism.
Garvey began creating all the organizations and symbols of State power to be exercised by an independent African people. He initiated a process in Liberia, where he bought land and sent a construction expedition there that would create a beachhead from which the struggle to free Africa could be launched.
The great meetings of the Garvey movement at its Liberty Halls, especially in New York, would become of major interest to all imperialists. Not only were Africans from throughout the world, especially seamen, constantly visiting these meetings, but also other oppressed people and their developing leaders, such as Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh who regularly attended Garvey meetings.
The Negro World also became a major irritant to imperialists. During the period of the resistance to U.S. imperialism in Nicaragua during the 1920s, the Negro World became a means through which followers of the anti-imperialist Nicaraguan revolutionary leader Augusto Sandino would communicate and advance their ideas.
On August 13, 1920, the UNIA adopted the Declaration of Rights of The Negro Peoples of the World. The significance of this declaration resonates today, some 86 years later. Among the complaints laid out in the declaration is Point 3 which declares, “That European nations have parceled out among them and taken possession of nearly all of the continent of Africa, and the natives are compelled to surrender their lands to aliens and are treated in most instances like slaves.”
Among the rights advanced by the declaration is this one that declares, “that Negroes, wheresoever they form a community among themselves should be given the right to elect their own representatives to represent them in Legislatures, courts of law, or such institutions as may exercise control over that particular community…
“…We believe that the Negro should adopt every means to protect himself against barbarous practices inflicted upon him because of color…
“…We believe in the freedom of Africa for the Negro people of the world…
“…We strongly condemn the cupidity of those nations of the world who, by open aggression or secret schemes, have seized the territories and inexhaustible natural wealth of Africa, and we place on record our most solemn determination to reclaim the treasures and possession of the vast continent of our forefathers…
“…We believe in the self-determination of all peoples…
“…We demand complete control of our social institutions without interference by any alien race or races…
“…That the colors, Red, Black and Green, be the colors of the Negro race…
“…We proclaim the 31st day of August of each year to be an international holiday to be observed by all Negroes…
“…We want all men to know that we shall maintain and contend for the freedom and equality of every man, woman and child of our race, with our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor…”
These select quotes from the extensive declaration helps us to understand the significance of the vision and the organizational efforts of the movement founded and led by Marcus Garvey. They also help to explain why the legacy of Garvey is eternal.
Political Movement of Pan Africanism Born in Opposition to Garvey
Today, with the crisis-ridden imperial white power groaning in response to the efforts of the oppressed peoples of the world to free ourselves from its domination, more and more of the African middle class or petty bourgeoisie are also looking toward Africa and some form of African unity.
In many ways, this is similar to the time of Garvey when for a time the imperialists were engaged in the first imperialist war to divide the world among themselves and oppressed peoples everywhere were attempting to forge their own path to freedom from colonial domination.
The power of the Garvey legacy has resulted in an effort by some, especially petty bourgeois African liberals, to lump Garvey and Du Bois together as founding fathers of practical, political, Pan Africanism. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Garvey was not a Pan Africanist. In fact, Pan Africanism, as a political movement, was formed by Du Bois and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). It was founded in opposition to the Garvey movement and as part of the overall imperialist-led struggle that led to its demise.
Both Du Bois and Garvey were always clear that they were opponents. In a June 20, 1921 letter to the New York Age and quoted in Volume III of the Marcus Garvey Papers edited by Robert Hill, Du Bois writes, “Bishop Smith mingles the Pan African Congress and the Garvey movement as practically one idea. This is a grave mistake. The Pan African Congress has nothing to do with any ‘Africa for the Africa[ns]’ movement. The object of the Pan African Congress is simply to bring representatives of the various people of African descent into knowledge and common acquaintanceship, so that out of such conferences general policies and actions can be evolved…
“Many colored persons know this, but have been restrained by the Garvey movement. Mr. Garvey’s African program has been dangerous, ill-considered[,] impracticable, and for that reason the Pan African Congress has not invited him to participate. On the other hand we must be generous enough to give Mr. Garvey the credit of having foreseen the necessity of union in business and social uplift between all the African people. He is not the man to carry this out because he lacks poise and business ability…”
Garvey, quoted in the same book on page 583, introduced this resolution during his opening address at the August 1921 UNIA convention:
“Be it resolved: That we, the duly elected representatives of the Negro peoples of the world, from North America, South America, Central America, West Indies, Asia, Europe, Australia and Africa, assembled in open conclave on this day of August, 1921, at the 12th Regiment Armory, New York City, United States of America…do hereby place on record our repudiation of a Pan African Congress to be held in London, England…
“Our repudiation of this Congress, as representatives of the Negro peoples of the world, is based on the fact that W.E.B. Du Bois, secretary of the so-called Pan African Congress, and those associated with him, are not representatives of the struggling peoples of the world, and that the men who have called the said Congress have not consulted with the Negro peoples of the world of their intention, and have received no mandate from the said people to call a Congress in their name…
“That we believe the motives of the Congress are to undermine the true feeling and sentiment of the Negro race for complete freedom in their own spheres, and for a higher social order among themselves, as against a desire among a certain class of Negroes for social contact, comradeship and companionship with the white race…”
There is no confusion here, by either Du Bois or Garvey. Moreover, a careful reading of the statements from both men will reveal the class bias of each.
Du Bois, with his concern for Garvey’s lack of poise and his begrudging and cynical praise for Garvey’s recognition for “union in business,” speaks volumes of his class sympathies as does Garvey’s complaint that Du Bois and his cohorts “are not representatives of the struggling peoples of the world.”
The imprisonment and deportation of Garvey were necessary for the development of the Pan Africanist movement which, up to then, was simply a gathering of a handful of African intellectuals, some of whom, like Blaise Diagne in France, actually worked for imperialist governments.
With Garvey’s forced removal from the scene, many people joined the Pan Africanist movement out of confusion while some others, like Garvey’s wife Amy Jaques Garvey, joined in 1945 in an effort to advance the work of her late husband.
Garvey’s Work Continues on in the Work to Build the African Socialist International
We, of the African People’s Socialist Party, are African Internationalists, followers of Garvey who continue to develop his ideas to make them consistent with the times in which we live.
Our opposition to Pan Africanism is not opposition to the literal translation of the words, which simply mean “all-African.” Our opposition is to what Pan Africanism is as a political expression.
People like Du Bois, and later George Padmore, created Pan Africanism as something petty bourgeoisie in outlook, pacifist and parliamentarian in tactics and strategy, anti-communist and neocolonialist in worldview.
However, for most people, Pan Africanism is whatever its advocates want it to be. It is not a theory, so much as it is a belief in the solidarity of African people worldwide, without regard for issues of class or practical program to liberate and unite Africa and African people in a revolutionary struggle against imperialism.
There have been many brilliant, heroic Pan Africanists. They include giants like Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Walter Rodney and Mangaliso Sobukwe. However, most of the difficulties and disasters that destroyed these courageous leaders and their movements, Rodney being a possible exception, came as a result of their adherence to the Pan African values that came from Du Bois and Padmore.
We believe that the efforts to build the African Socialist International, a single organization of African revolutionaries committed to the struggle to liberate and unite Africa and African people under the leadership of the African working class and to create a socialist United States of Africa is Garveyism in the era of imperialism in crisis.
For the African People’s Socialist Party the celebration of the legacy of Garvey means that we should live like him and fight to accomplish his vision in our lifetime. We call on all others who would be like Garvey and who go beyond the annual process of paying homage to a deceased Garvey, to join us in building the ASI, our greatest testimony to the fact that Garvey lives!


A black nationalist, Marcus Garvey immigrated to Harlem in 1916. There he established Liberty Hall as headquarters for a movement that would grow to almost 2 million members.
Marcus Garvey in full uniform
Marcus Garvey
Thought by many blacks to be another Moses, Marcus Garvey rose from humble beginnings in Jamaica, West Indies, to become the number one advocate of the “Back to Africa movement.”

He left school at sixteen and went to work as an apprentice printer, organizing the printing workers in Kingston, Jamaica.

In 1917, he came to America and founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), whose major goal was to create a strong Negro Nation in Africa. By 1920, the UNIA claimed more than 1 million members. In August of that year, their International Convention was held in New York City, where 25,000 people gathered to hear Garvey speak.

In 1923, Garvey was charged with and found guilty of using the mail service to defraud in connection with his fundraising to buy ships for the return to Africa. While imprisoned he wrote his famous “First Message to the Negroes of the World from Atlanta Prison,” where he said: “Look to me in the whirlwind or the storm, look for me all around you, for, with God’s grace I shall come and bring with me countless millions of black slaves who have died in America and the West Indies and the millions in Africa to aid you in the fight for liberty, freedom and life.”

Garvey died in 1940 in London, England. He was named Jamaica’s first national hero and buried in the National Heroes Park in Jamaica. This entry contributed by Curriculum Concepts International
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Columbia University Professor of History Kenneth Jackson talks about Marcus Garvey Park, and the man for whom it was named.

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Kellie Jones, Columbia University Professor of Art History and Archeology, describes New York’s Marcus Garvey Park.


Current view of Marcus Garvey Memorial Park
The Marcus Garvey Memorial Park interrupts Fifth Avenue between 120th and 124th Streets. Its 70-foot hill offers a view of the site of Garvey’s Liberty Hall on West 138th Street.

Marcus Garvey in full uniform
A black nationalist, Marcus Garvey immigrated to Harlem in 1916. There he established Liberty Hall as headquarters for a movement that would grow to almost 2 million members.

Envelope for Donations to UNIA
This envelope calls for joining and contributing to the Universal Negro Improvement Association.

Advertisement for a UNIA Convention
A 1924 UNIA flyer announces “Biggest Negro Convention in the History of the World: Program for Big Conclave Outlined.”

Lesson Plans

Marcus Garvey and the Rise of Black Nationalism

Marcus Garvey and the Rise of Black Nationalism – 4th Grade Adaptation


Mingle City

Mark Wells
Marcus Garvey

Posted by Mark Wells on December 20, 2009 at 1:22pm in KNOWLEDGE IS KING!!!!
Back to KNOWLEDGE IS KING!!!! Discussions

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.
Marcus Garvey

Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., ONH (17 August 1887 – 10 June 1940), was a publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, Black Nationalist, Pan-Africanist, and orator. Marcus Garvey was founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL).

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 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). The intention of the movement was for those of African ancestry to “redeem” Africa and for the European colonial powers to leave it. His essential ideas about Africa were stated in an editorial in the Negro World titled “African Fundamentalism” where he wrote:
“ Our union must know no clime, boundary, or nationality… let us hold together under all climes and in every country… ”

God and Nature first made us what we are, and then out of our own created genius we make ourselves what we want to be. Follow always that great law. Let the sky and God be our limit and Eternity our measurement.
Marcus Garvey

Early years

Garvey was born in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, on 17 August 1887, to Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Sr., a mason, and Sarah Jane Richards, a domestic worker and farmer. Of eleven siblings, only Marcus and his sister Indiana reached maturity. Garvey’s father was known to have a large library, and it was from his father that Marcus gained his love for reading. Sometime in the year 1900, Garvey entered into an apprenticeship with his uncle, Alfred Burrowes. Like Garvey Sr., Burrowes had an extensive library, of which young Garvey made good use.When he was about fourteen, Garvey left St. Ann’s Bay for Kingston, where he found employment as a compositor in the printing house of P. A. Benjamin, Limited. He was a master printer and foreman at Benjamin when, in November 1907, he was elected vice-president of the Kingston Union. However, he was fired when he joined a strike by printers in late 1908. Having been blacklisted for his stance in the strike, he later found work at the Government Printing Office. In 1909, his newspaper The Watchman began publication, but it only lasted for three issues.

In 1910 Garvey left Jamaica and began traveling throughout the Central American region. He lived in Costa Rica for several months, where he worked as a time-keeper on a banana plantation. He began work as editor for a daily newspaper titled La Nacionale in 1911. Later that year, he moved to Colón, Panama, where he edited a biweekly newspaper before returning to Jamaica in 1912.

After years of working on the Caribbean, Garvey left Jamaica to live in London from 1912 to 1914, where he attended Birkbeck College, worked for the African Times and Orient Review, published by Dusé Mohamed Ali, and sometimes spoke at Hyde Park’s Speakers’ Corner.

I have no desire to take all black people back to Africa; there are blacks who are no good here and will likewise be no good there.
Marcus Garvey

Founding and Projects of the UNIA-ACL

During his travels, Garvey became convinced that uniting Blacks was the only way to improve their condition. Towards that end, he departed England on 14 June 1914 aboard the S.S. Trent, reaching Jamaica on 15 July 1914. He founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in August 1914 as a means of uniting all of Africa and its diaspora into “one grand racial hierarchy.” Amy Ashwood, who would later be Garvey’s first wife, was among the founders. As the group’s first President-General, Garvey’s goal was “to unite all people of African ancestry of the world to one great body to establish a country and absolute government of their own.”

Following much reflection the following day and night about what he learned, he named the organization the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities (Imperial) League.”

After corresponding with Booker T. Washington, Garvey arrived in the U.S. on 23 March 1916 aboard the S.S. Tallac to give a lecture tour and to raise funds to establish a school in Jamaica modeled after Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. Garvey visited Tuskegee, and afterward, visited with a number of Black leaders. After moving to New York, he found work as a printer by day. He was influenced by Hubert Harrison. At night he would speak on street corners, much like he did in London’s Hyde Park. It was then that Garvey perceived a leadership vacuum among people of African ancestry. On 9 May 1916, he held his first public lecture in New York City at St Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery and undertook a 38-state speaking tour.

In May 1917, Garvey and thirteen others formed the first UNIA division outside Jamaica and began advancing ideas to promote social, political, and economic freedom for Blacks. On 2 July, the East St. Louis riots broke out. On July 8, Garvey delivered an address, titled “The Conspiracy of the East St. Louis Riots,” at Lafayette Hall in Harlem. During the speech, he declared the riot was “one of the bloodiest outrages against mankind.” By October, rancor within the UNIA had begun to set in. A split occurred in the Harlem division, with Garvey enlisted to become its leader; although he technically held the same position in Jamaica.

Garvey next set about the business of developing a program to improve the conditions of those of African ancestry “at home and abroad” under UNIA auspices. On 17 August 1918, publication of the widely distributed Negro World newspaper began. Garvey worked as an editor without pay until November 1920. By June 1919 the membership of the organization had grown to over two million.

On 27 June 1919, the Black Star Line of Delaware, was incorporated by the members of the UNIA with Garvey as President. By September, it obtained its first ship. Much fanfare surrounded the inspection of the S.S. Yarmouth and its rechristening as the S.S. Frederick Douglass on 14 September 1919. Such a rapid accomplishment garnered attention from many.

One person who noticed was Edwin P. Kilroe, Assistant District Attorney in the District Attorney’s office of the County of New York. Kilroe began an investigation into the activities of the UNIA, without finding any evidence of wrongdoing or mismanagement. After being called to Kilroe’s office numerous times, Garvey wrote an editorial on Kilroe’s activities for the Negro World. Garvey was arrested and indicted for criminal libel in relation to the article, but charges were dismissed after Garvey published a retraction.

While in his Harlem office at 56 West 156th Street on 14 October 1919, Garvey received a visit from George Tyler, who told him that Kilroe “had sent him” to get Garvey. Tyler then pulled a .38-caliber revolver and fired four shots, wounding Garvey in the right leg and scalp. Garvey was taken to the hospital and Tyler arrested. The next day, it was let out that Tyler had committed suicide by leaping from the third tier of the Harlem jail as he was being taken to his arraignment.

By August 1920, the UNIA claimed four million members. That month, the International Convention of the UNIA was held. With delegates from all over the world in attendance, over 25,000 people filled Madison Square Garden on 1 August to hear Garvey speak.

Another of Garvey’s ventures was the Negro Factories Corporation. His plan called for creating the infrastructure to manufacture every marketable commodity in every big U.S. industrial center, as well as in Central America, the West Indies, and Africa. Related endeavors included a grocery chain, restaurant, publishing house, and other businesses.

Convinced that Blacks should have a permanent homeland in Africa, Garvey sought to develop Liberia.

The Liberia program, launched in 1920, was intended to build colleges, universities, industrial plants, and railroads as part of an industrial base from which to operate. However, it was abandoned in the mid-1920s after much opposition from European powers with interests in Liberia. In response to suggestions that he wanted to take all Americans of African ancestry back to Africa, he wrote, “We do not want all the Negroes in Africa. Some are no good here, and naturally will be no good there.”

Garvey has been credited with creating the biggest movement of people of African descent. This movement that took place in the 1920s is said to have had more participation from people of African descent than the Civil Rights Movement. In essence the UNIA was the largest Pan-African movement.

Our success educationally, industrially and politically is based upon the protection of a nation founded by ourselves. And the nation can be nowhere else but in Africa.
Marcus Garvey

Charge of mail fraud

In a memorandum dated 11 October 1919, J. Edgar Hoover, special assistant to the Attorney General, and head of the General Intelligence Division (or “anti-radical division”) of The Bureau of Investigation or BOI (after 1935, the Federal Bureau of Investigation), wrote a memorandum to Special Agent Ridgely regarding Marcus Garvey. In the memo, Hoover wrote that:
“ Unfortunately, however, he [Garvey] has not as yet violated any federal law whereby he could be proceeded against on the grounds of being an undesirable alien, from the point of view of deportation. ”

Sometime around November 1919 an investigation by the BOI was begun into the activities of Garvey and the UNIA. Toward this end, the BOI hired James Edward Amos, Arthur Lowell Brent, Thomas Leon Jefferson, James Wormley Jones, and Earl E. Titus as its first five African-American agents. Although initial efforts by the BOI were to find grounds upon which to deport Garvey as “an undesirable alien”, a charge of mail fraud was brought against Garvey in connection with stock sales of the Black Star Line after the U.S. Post Office and the Attorney General joined the investigation.

The accusation centered on the fact that the corporation had not yet purchased a ship with the name “Phyllis Wheatley”.[clarification needed] Although one was pictured with that name emblazoned on its bow on one of the company’s stock brochures, it had not actually been purchased by the BSL and still had the name “Orion”. The prosecution produced as evidence a single empty envelope which it claimed contained the brochure. During the trial, a man by the name of Benny Dancy testified that he didn’t remember what was in the envelope, although he regularly received brochures from the Black Star Line. Another witness for the prosecution, Schuyler Cargill, perjured himself after admitting[ to having been told to mention certain dates in his testimony by Chief Prosecutor Maxwell S. Mattuck. Furthermore, he admitted that he could not remember the names of any coworkers in the office, including the timekeeper who punched employees’ time cards. Ultimately, he acknowledged being told to lie by Postal Inspector F.E. Shea. He said Shea told him to state that he mailed letters containing the purportedly fraudulent brochures. The Black Star Line did own and operate several ships over the course of its history and was in the process of negotiating for the disputed ship at the time the charges were brought. Assistant District Attorney, Leo H. Healy, who was, before he became a District Attorney, attorney for Harris McGill and Co., the sellers of the first ship, the S. S. Yarmouth, to the Black Star Line Inc. was also a key witness for the government during the trial.

Of the four Black Star Line officers charged in connection with the enterprise, only Garvey was found guilty of using the mail service to defraud. His supporters called the trial fraudulent. While there were serious accounting irregularities within the Black Star Line and the claims he used to sell Black Star Line stock could be considered misleading, Garvey’s supporters still contest that the prosecution was a politically motivated miscarriage of justice, given the above-mentioned false statement testimony and Hoover’s explicit regret that Garvey had committed no crimes.

When the trial ended on 23 June 1923, Garvey had been sentenced to five years in prison. He initially spent three months in the Tombs Jail awaiting approval of bail. While on bail, he continued to maintain his innocence, travel, speak and organize the UNIA. After numerous attempts at appeal were unsuccessful, he was taken into custody and began serving his sentence at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary on 8 February 1925. Two days later, he penned his well known “First Message to the Negroes of the World From Atlanta Prison” wherein he makes his famous proclamation:
“ Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm, look for me all around you, for, with God’s grace, I shall come and bring with me countless millions of black slaves who have died in America and the West Indies and the millions in Africa to aid you in the fight for Liberty, Freedom and Life. ”

Professor Judith Stein has stated, “his politics were on trial.”

Garvey’s sentence was eventually commuted by President Calvin Coolidge. Upon his release in November 1927, Garvey was deported via New Orleans to Jamaica, where a large crowd met him at Orrett’s Wharf in Kingston. A huge procession and band converged on UNIA headquarters.

The Black skin is not a badge of shame, but rather a glorious symbol of national greatness.
Marcus Garvey


While W. E. B. Du Bois expressed the Black Star Line was “original and promising,” he also said: “Marcus Garvey is, without doubt, the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America and in the world. He is either a lunatic or a traitor.”Du Bois feared that Garvey’s activities would undermine his efforts toward black rights.

Garvey suspected Du Bois was prejudiced against him because he was a Caribbean native with darker skin. Du Bois once described Marcus Garvey as “a little, fat black man; ugly, but with intelligent eyes and a big head.” Garvey called Du Bois “purely and simply a white man’s n*****” and “a little Dutch, a little French, a little Negro … a mulatto … a monstrosity.” This led to an acrimonious relationship between Garvey and the NAACP. Garvey accused Du Bois of paying conspirators to sabotage the Black Star Line to destroy his reputation.

At the National Conference of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in 1921 a Los Angeles delegate Noah Thompson spoke on the floor complaining on the lack of transparency in the group’s financial accounts. When accounts were prepared Thompson highlighted several sections with what he felt were irregularities.

Garvey recognized the influence of the Ku Klux Klan, and in early 1922, he went to Atlanta, Georgia for a conference with KKK imperial giant Edward Young Clarke.

According to Garvey, “I regard the Klan, the Anglo-Saxon clubs and White American societies, as far as the Negro is concerned, as better friends of the race than all other groups of hypocritical whites put together. I like honesty and fair play. You may call me a Klansman if you will, but, potentially, every white man is a Klansman, as far as the Negro in competition with whites socially, economically and politically is concerned, and there is no use lying.”[27] Leo H. Healy publicly accused Garvey of being a member of the Ku Klux Klan in his testimony during the mail fraud trial.

After Garvey’s entente with the Ku Klux Klan, a number of African American leaders appealed to U.S. Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty to have Garvey incarcerated.

Although historians tend to side with Du Bois, Theodore Vincent’s “Black Power and the Garvey Movement” contends that, “Cronon and most other scholars dealing with Garvey have misunderstood their subject, and have written off as unimportant a man who founded a most significant movement for black freedom.” This book is devoted to dispelling “militant” criticism of Garvey from people like W. E. B. Du Bois.

There shall be no solution to this race problem until you, yourselves, strike the blow for liberty.
Marcus Garvey

Later years

1928, Garvey travelled to Geneva to present the Petition of the Negro Race. This petition outlined the worldwide abuse of Africans to the League of Nations. In September 1929, he founded the People’s Political Party (PPP), Jamaica’s first modern political party, which focused on workers’ rights, education, and aid to the poor.

Also in 1929, Garvey was elected councilor for the Allman Town Division of the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC). However, he lost his seat because of having to serve a prison sentence for contempt of court. But, in 1930, Garvey was re-elected, unopposed, along with two other PPP candidates.

In April 1931, Garvey launched the Edelweiss Amusement Company. He set the company up to help artists earn their livelihood from their craft. Several Jamaican entertainers — Kidd Harold, Ernest Cupidon, Bim & Bam, and Ranny Williams — went on to become popular after receiving initial exposure that the company gave them.

In 1935, Garvey left Jamaica for London. He lived and worked in London until his death in 1940. During these last five years, Garvey remained active and in touch with events in war-torn Ethiopia (then known as Abyssinia) and in the West Indies. In 1937, he wrote the poem Ras Nasibu Of Ogaden[29] in honor of Ethiopian Army Commander (Ras) Nasibu Emmanual. In 1938, he gave evidence before the West Indian Royal Commission on conditions there. Also in 1938 he set up the School of African Philosophy in Toronto to train UNIA leaders. He continued to work on the magazine The Black Man.

In 1937, a group of Garvey’s American supporters called the Peace Movement of Ethiopia openly collaborated with Mississippi Senator Theodore Bilbo in the promotion of a repatriation scheme introduced in the US Congress as the Greater Liberia Act. In the Senate, Bilbo was a supporter of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Bilbo was an outspoken supporter of segregation and white supremacy and, attracted by the ideas of Black separatists like Garvey, Bilbo proposed an amendment to the federal work-relief bill on 6 June 1938, proposing to deport 12 million black Americans to Liberia at federal expense to relieve unemployment.[30] He took the time to write a book titled Take Your Choice, Separation or Mongrelization, advocating the idea. Garvey praised him in return, saying that Bilbo had “done wonderfully well for the Negro”.[31]

During this period, Evangeline Rondon Paterson the grandmother of the current (55th) Governor of New York, David Paterson served as his secretary.

Marcus Garvey


n 10 June 1940, Garvey died after two strokes, putatively after reading a mistaken, and negative, obituary of himself in the Chicago Defender which stated, in part, that Garvey died “broke, alone and unpopular”. Because of travel conditions during World War II, he was interred at Kensal Green Cemetery in London. Rumours claimed that Garvey was in fact poisoned on a boat on which he was travelling and that was where and how he actually died.

In 1964, his remains were exhumed and taken to Jamaica. On 15 November 1964, the government of Jamaica, having proclaimed him Jamaica’s first national hero, re-interred him at a shrine in National Heroes Park.

The flag of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA)


February 26, 2012



Malcolm X
“There was two kind of slaves. There was the house negro and the field negro. The house negro, they lived in the house, with master. They
dressed pretty good. They ate good, cause they ate his food, what he left.
They lived in the attic or the basement, but still they lived near their
master, and they loved their master, more than their master loved
himself. They would give their life to save their masters house quicker
than their master would. The house negro, if the master said “we got a
good house here” the house negro say “yeah, we got a good house here”.
Whenever the master would said we, he’d say we. That’s how you can
tell a house negro. If the master’s house caught on fire, the house negro
would fight harder to put the blaze out than the master would. If the
master got sick, the house negro would say “What’s the matter, boss, we
sick?” We sick! He identified himself with his master, more than the
master identified with himself. And if you came to the house negro and
said “Let’s run away, Let’s escape, Let’s separate” the house negro would
look at you and say “Man, you crazy. What you mean separate? Where
is there a better house than this? Where can I wear better clothes than
this? Where can I eat better food than this?” There was that house
negro. In those days, he was called a house nigger. And that’s what we
call him today, because we still got some house niggers runnin around
here. This modern house negro loves his master. He wants to live near
him. He’ll pay three times as much as the house is worth just to live near
his master, and then brag about “I’m the only negro out here. I’m the
only one on my job. I’m the only one in this school.” “You’re nothing but
a house negro. And if someone come to you right now and say “Let’s
separate.”, you say the same thing that the house negro said on the
plantation. “What you mean separate? From America? This good white
land? Where you gonna get a better job than you get here? I mean, this
is what you say! “I di-I ain’t left nothing in Africa” That’s what you say.
“Why, you left your mind in Africa”. On that same plantation, there was
the field negro. The field negro, those were the masses. There was
always more negros in the field as there were negros in the house. There
negro in the field caught hell. He ate leftovers. In the house, they ate
high up on the hog. The negro in the field didn’t get nothing but what
was left in the insides of the hog. They call them chit’lins nowaday. In
those days, they called them what they were, guts! That’s what you
were, a guteater. And some of you are still guteaters. The field negro
was beaten, from morning til night. He lived in a shack, in a hut. He
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wore cast-off clothes. He hated his master. I say, he hated his master. He was intelligent. That house negro loved his master. But that field negro, remember, they were in the majority, and they hated their master. When the house caught on fire, he didn’t try to put it out, that
field negro prayed for a wind. For a breeze. When the master got sick, the field negro prayed that he died. If someone come to the field negro and said “Let’s separate, let’s run.” He didn’t say “Where we going?” he
said “Any place is better than here”. We got field negros in America
today. I’m a field negro.


January 20, 2012



Tackling the Subsidy Mess

Written by Adejuwon Soyinka

Protesters on the road in Abuja, the FCT Protesters on the road in Abuja, the FCT

More than the sudden total removal of subsidy on petrol, a combination of corruption, opulent lifestyle of political office holders and mismanagement of resources by successive governments appears to be the main reasons fuelling the people’s anger and the driving force of the nationwide strike

She appeared ruffled and desperate. Clutching her baby behind her as she searched through heaps of refuse, the woman simply identified as Mama Tola was totally oblivious of her environment. All attempts to stop her from further running her hands through the smelly rubbish fell on deaf ears. “I can’t stop searching for it. It is the food I had just prepared for my baby and I cannot afford to get her another one,” she said. Too poor to afford a food flask, the woman had packaged her child’s food in a black polythene bag, which a neighbour mistook for rubbish and threw in the trash can. By the time she came looking for the polythene bag, the can had been emptied into a waste disposal truck. But since the waste disposal truck was still within the neighbourhood, Mama Tola thought it expedient to retrieve her baby food from it.

Reminded that even if she were to retrieve the food, it would be unhygienic to give to her baby, the woman who ekes a living by sweeping houses within her Orile Agege, Lagos neighbourhood, was not bothered. “I can’t afford to prepare another food for her today again so I have to get this one or she will go hungry,” she explained. Mama Tola only stopped searching through the refuse when a neighbour offered her some money to make her baby another food.

She is not the only one faced with this kind of situation. Also in the same category with her is Emeka Anyaoso, an Imo State indigene, resident in the Ikeja area of Lagos. The father of four has been jobless for over three years after he was laid off at a tomato canning company in Lagos. Anyaoso was relieved of his duties when the company went under. Since then, he has had to struggle to feed his family. Towards the end of 2011, Anyaoso’s situation became so stringent that he had to send his son to a neighbour’s house to beg for food on Christmas day. That strategy is not his exclusive preserve. Every weekend, there are Nigerians who send their children to different party venues around their neighbourhood armed with big polythene bags. Their mission: Scavenge for leftover foods and drinks. The family will then feed on that for as long as it can last.

For this class of Nigerians, making a living and feeding had been a difficult task even before the federal government suddenly announced the total removal of fuel subsidy on January 1. With the rising level of unemployment particularly among the youths, the poverty situation has been compounded. In 2009, 70 million Nigerians, about half of the nation’s population, were said to be living below poverty line, relying on $1 per day. At that time, according to Magnus Kpakol, coordinator of the National Poverty Eradication Programme, NAPEP, the geo-political breakdown showed poverty much more grinding in the northeast and northwest with 72.2 per cent and 71.2 per cent respectively. They were followed by north-central, 67 per cent; southwest, 43 per cent; south-south, 36.1 per cent; and southeast, 26.7 per cent. Right now, with prices of goods and services going up by over 100 per cent, their situation is better imagined than experienced. Thus, many Nigerians appear to have been pushed to the wall such that the removal of fuel subsidy was just a catalyst for them to vent their pent-up anger. This much was captured by the Financial Times of London in its editorial last Tuesday. “Nigerians are justifiably angry,” the newspaper observes. “Since President Goodluck Jonathan’s government lifted a longstanding subsidy on fuel, the pump price of petrol has more than doubled, transport costs have soared and food prices jumped. For tens of millions of Nigerians living on the edge this represents a hardship too far. Moreover, it is one that has been imposed before the government can claim either to have raised living standards or significantly improved service delivery,” the newspaper argues.

Even then, the newspaper is not faulting the removal of fuel subsidy by the Jonathan administration. It actually subscribes to the opinion that subsidy has to go. Said the newspaper: “Every government for the past 30 years in Nigeria, both civilian and military, has known as much. What is questionable is the timing. An Islamist insurrection is threatening the fabric of the federation and dividing Nigerians along religious lines. The policy is the right one, but the reckless way he (the President) has gone about it risks pouring fuel on existing fires.” In the opinion of the paper, the federal government got it wrong on two fronts: timing and approach.

Nasir El-Rufai, former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, who is not known to be a fan of the administration, shares the newspaper’s sentiments. In addition to the wrong timing, El-Rufai said the policy would only further punish Nigerians who for many years have been impoverished by a combination of corruption and mismanagement of resources by successive governments. As far as he is concerned, Nigerians have no business living in the throes of poverty but for the fact that they have actually been made to subsidise the government for so long. “When a Nigerian pays N65 for fuel rather than N40, he is subsidising the incompetence of government by N25.

When a Nigerian has to buy a generator and buy petrol and diesel because electricity generation is worse off, he is subsidising the incompetence in government. When a Nigerian has to drill a borehole, buy pure water or bottled water rather than get public potable tap water, he is subsidising the inefficiency of government,” he says.

El-Rufai is also of the opinion that, “when a Nigerian has to maintain three phone lines or three different Internet subscriptions just because of call quality or crippled bandwidth, he is subsidising the failures of government regulation. When a Nigerian has to pay heavily to secure his life and property through personnel and gadgets, he is subsidising the failure of government to protect him constitutionally. For bad roads, we subsidise by having to visit the mechanic more often than usual or sometimes with our lives.”

“Situations such as these,” says Tunde Bakare, pastor and convener, Save Nigeria Group, SNG, “are some of the real reasons Nigerians took to the streets in protest last week.” For many of the protesters, the federal government’s decision to totally remove subsidy on premium motor spirit, PMS, otherwise known as petrol, was the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back. As they protested, shutting down the country’s economy last week, many insisted that government had no moral right to ask the people to pay more for what were obviously its failings. Many argued that the reasons cited by government for removal of fuel subsidy reek of corruption and ineptitude.

These are equally the views of Bakare. “In addition to the reversal of this painful overdose of punishment on Nigerians, we also demand that the issue of corruption in Nigeria, and in the oil subsector in particular, be addressed at this time. This is a golden opportunity to do just that,” Bakare declared, adding that “the monumental corruption in NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation) stinks to high heavens. As at today, nobody in Nigeria, with the exception of a few NNPC officials, knows how much we make from the oil sector. For example, if crude oil is sold in naira today and payment is made 90 days after at a higher dollar denomination, the figures usually released in Abuja are based on the lower naira denomination at the time of sale. The question is, what has happened to the difference? The obvious answer is corruption.”

To convince the people about its seriousness, Bakare who was vice-presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, in last April general elections wants government to arrest and prosecute those responsible for corruption in the downstream sector of the oil industry. That is one issue that gets the people angry. That was the submission of one of the associates of Dino Melaye, former member of the House of Representatives, earlier arrested by the security ahead of last week’s protest, after his release by the police. According to him, “This is a government that is strong against the weak, but weak against the strong.” The argument is that Nigerians are being made to pay for the greed of the influential few. Not only that, Bakare also wants government to reduce its overhead cost. Said he: “It is pure madness that over 70 per cent of our annual budget is spent on financing the fancy and appetite of our political office holders. In the current 2012 budget before the National Assembly, the Presidency alone has a feeding allowance of approximately N1 billion. Over N1 billion is budgeted for medical treatment at the Aso Rock clinic. Over N1 billion has been allocated for fuel and generators. The Presidency has also budgeted N280 million to buy two bullet-proof cars, and N300 million for dining sets. The least security vote allocated to governors is N6 billion a year; some governors receive over N1 billion a month. This unbridled folly must be challenged and thwarted.”

This line of argument is pointing at the increasing cost of governance in all the three tiers of government, the sickening level of waste by politically exposed persons, their inability to fight corruption and their penchant to be strong on the weak and almost spineless in tackling the strong. Again, it is believed that most Nigerian leaders are always quick to ask the governed to make sacrifices while they, the leaders, feed fat on the system.

Apparently unwilling to be tagged a selfish leader who also condones corruption, President Goodluck Jonathan in a national broadcast on the eve of the mass strike announced government’s decision to equally make sacrifices and fight corruption. “To save Nigeria, we must all be prepared to make sacrifices. On the part of government, we are taking several measures aimed at cutting the size and cost of governance, including ongoing and continuous effort to reduce the size of our recurrent expenditure and increase capital spending.” In this regard, the President said he has directed that overseas travels by all political office holders, including himself, should be reduced to the barest minimum. The size of delegations on foreign trips will also be drastically reduced while only trips that are absolutely necessary will be approved.

The President then went further to add what he considered a clincher. “For the year 2012, the basic salaries of all political office holders in the executive arm of government will be reduced by 25 per cent,” he said.

But this offer, which many describe as belated and an afterthought, has since been taken apart by the opposition parties, labour movements and civil society groups. The Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, described it as “mere tokenism.” Francis Njoku, a legal practitioner, wonders what percentage of the total take home pay of political office holders does their basic salary represent. “We all know that the basic salary is very small. Why limit it (the cut) to the basic salary. If the President wanted to be taken seriously, the cut should have affected the entire emolument, not basic salary that is nothing. It shows that this administration is not serious about trying to create equilibrium in sacrifices. We all know that their allowances are mind-blowing.”

This is equally the view of Peter Ozo-Eson, chief economist, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Abuja. “If we must face reality, the cost of maintaining the executive, as well as the legislature, is becoming a burden [on] the economy. This has nothing to do with their salaries. Even if you place Mr. President on zero salary, the office would still be attractive because a colossal amount of money is spent on his feeding alone, not to talk of other allowances,” he argued.

This perhaps explains why Njoku asks, “What business [do] the President and his vice have placing the burden of the feeding of their families on people, budgeting N1 billion for their food when they are paid salaries? Why should the Senate president be earning N600 million annually in all allowances? Is that not madness?”

And he sure has good reasons for saying so. Members of the Nigerian legislature are some of the highest paid in the world. Senators in the United States, US, earn about $6,000 (or N948,000 monthly or N11.4 million per annum) and that is about what a university professor, or a director in a state department, or a doctor with 20 years experience, or a teacher with 25 years experience earns in the US. 

In Nigeria, a senator earns N245 million per annum, representing the salaries of about 25 vice chancellors or 50 medical doctors or 60 directors in the public service or 500 schoolteachers. The Nigerian senator’s salary, which is far in excess of what Barack Obama earns as US President, still excludes a severance package running into several millions of naira.

This is also in spite of the fact that upon resumption of office, each of the senators for instance is paid a lump sum of N130 million. This was said to have been the monetised value of their housing in Abuja, cost of setting up a constituency office as well as for the purchase of an official car. In spite of this provision, each of the senators still got an official car bought at government’s expense purportedly for community work. Commenting on the legislators’ mouth-watering salaries and allowances in Abuja during the nation’s 51st independence anniversary last October, Richard Dowden, a British journalist, had described as unacceptable the fact that Nigeria, a country with 10 per cent of the world’s maternal and child mortality and 10 per cent of the world’s children out of school, has the highest paid politicians in the world. “1 million dollars for a parliamentary salary with another 1 million dollars in expenses is obscene,” noted Dowden.

But the wastage in government is not limited to that. For instance, whereas the US President has only two aircraft, Nigeria’s President has nine in his fleet and voted money recently to buy one more. The British Prime Minister has only two official cars; his counterpart in Nigeria has about 23 in his pool and only recently voted N300 million to buy two more bullet-proof cars. The US, almost the size of the entire African continent, with about 312.8 million people, is administered by a President assisted by 24 ministers working through 32 government parastatals and commissions. In Nigeria, the President has 42 cabinet ministers and 20 special advisers all working through over 400 government parastatals, many of which workers are so idle that even the President or even the supervisory minister may not know they exist.

Whereas government argues that the N1.3 trillion spent on fuel subsidy within the last one year was unsustainable, nothing has yet been done about the revelation of Hamman Tukur, former chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, that government spends about the same amount yearly on the emoluments of federal government, 36 states and 774 local governments’ political, public and judicial office holders.

While announcing federal government’s decision to equally make sacrifices, Jonathan said his administration is already looking at committees, commissions and parastatals with overlapping responsibilities while calling on all ministries, departments and agencies of government to cut down on their overheads.

Onyekachi Ubani, a lawyer and social activist on his part, says the sacrifices announced by the President are simply not enough. “We have gone beyond salary, we are talking about gross corruption and ineptitude in government,” Ubani said.

In search of a solution, Njoku says political office holders should not live above the means of Nigeria as a country. “A situation whereby over one third of the budget is spent on political office holders, that is where the problem lies, and not the peanut that is purported to be spent subsidising petrol. One should expect a minimum of 50 per cent reduction in the total emolument of every political office holder and their advisers,” Njoku said.

For those in this school of thought, there are examples to draw from other parts of the world. Concerned about growing complaints over income inequality and rising prices for housing, transport and other basics, the government of Singapore recently decided to effect a pay cut of 36 per cent. The pay cut saw the salary of Lee Hsien Loong, the country’s prime minister, reduced by over $1 million. He is not alone. David Cameron, prime minister of Britain, did that when he got to office. Faced with the economic meltdown, Obama decided to freeze his salary and those of his cabinet members and all federal workers.

Beyond pay cut, Reclaim Nigeria Group, a social rights movement, wants government to prove its seriousness by putting in place a law that makes stealing of public funds an offence punishable with public execution. The group also wants the immunity clause, protecting governors and the President from litigations, to be removed at both the state and federal levels. In addition to that, the group wants the President to sell off all the aircraft in the presidential fleet; sell the presidential villa and replace it with not more than 6-bedroom apartment; provide not more than one official car and no foreign medical treatment for any political appointee. The group is also calling for the scrapping of the office of the First Lady among others while adding that “we are the employers of the President and his appointees, anyone who is not satisfied with this term of engagement should resign.” But Nigeria is not in want of a law against sharp practices; it is just that there is a great deal of impunity among political office holders. Aside from that, the call for the scrapping of immunity clause has been a vexed issue over the years. But Nigerians suspect that there is a conspiracy between the executive and the legislature over this matter.

On his part, the President appears as equally concerned about the issues agitating protesters. “If I were not here to lead the process of national renewal, if I were in your shoes at this moment, I probably would have reacted in the same manner as some of our compatriots, or hold the same critical views about government,” he said. He, however, said that though these are tough times, “tough choices have to be made to safeguard the economy and our collective survival as a nation.” He said his administration is also concerned about the challenge posed by corruption while insisting that the deregulation policy is the strongest measure to tackle this challenge in the downstream oil sector.

But Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and leader of ACN, says if government were sincere in this regard, it would have used an entirely different strategy. He argued that government ought to have looked at the removal of fuel subsidy as an evolutionary, long-term process instead of as a sudden event accomplished by executive fiat.

“If government had proceeded along these lines, it would have first perfected the plans for the new programmes and projects that would receive the funds previously allocated the subsidy. These plans would have been in place and ready to implement. Only then would the subsidy be removed. To say that they will develop programmes once the subsidy is removed suggests government’s heart is not in these alternatives. Government only raised this possibility as a public relations afterthought to douse public opposition,” Tinubu reasoned.

Diezani Alison-Madueke, minister for Petroleum Resources, disagreed. “If the issue of fuel subsidy was removed earlier as part of the components of deregulation, by now we would have seen private companies both indigenous and foreign investors in both domestic and export-oriented refineries across the country as they did in the upstream sector,” the minister said.

With that statement, Alison-Madueke may be trying to pass a message that the current crisis has a history that predates the Jonathan administration. The Olusegun Obasanjo administration actually started the process of full deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry. The administration sold 51 per cent of government’s shares in the Port Harcourt Refinery to the Bluestar Oil Services Limited Consortium, owned by Aliko Dangote and Femi Otedola, both businessmen. The process was however truncated by the late president Umaru Yar’Adua government following agitations from the labour movement and civil society groups that the sale of the refinery be reversed.

Abubakar Yar’Adua, the then group managing director, GMD, NNPC, appeared before a Senate committee to also argue that the corporation was capable of turning the refinery around, adding that it was actually prevented from doing that by the Obasanjo administration which he claimed was more interested in selling the plant. He also argued that what the nation needed to do was to devote money to the repairs of the existing four refineries and also build new ones. The then NNPC GMD promised to deliver the well-refurbished refineries in six months.

In view of this, government refunded $721 million to the Bluestar Consortium while $80 million was released to the NNPC for the repairs of the four refineries. Over four years after, the refineries are still functioning at less than 30 per cent of installed capacity, necessitating importation of petroleum products and provision of heavy subsidy by the government. These are some of the reasons Nigerians are now wary of trusting the current administration or any of its agencies when it promised to use monies saved from removal of subsidy to repair the existing refineries or build other public infrastructure.

But what is the way forward? As far as El-Rufai is concerned, those giving economic arguments for or against fuel subsidy withdrawal miss the point totally. “It is not about economics. It is about trust… from about 2010 till date, nearly N10 trillion has been spent on government officials, trips abroad and other perquisites. In the 2012 budget, National Assembly intends to spend N150 billion on itself, the same amount as in 2011 to pay those huge allowances. It has not been reduced. That is the issue and government can only earn that trust through small steps,” he said.

There is a dilemma here. To earn the people’s trust requires time, which Jonathan’s government does not appear to have in abundance. The federal government needs to move fast to resolve the stalemate. This is why many stress the need for labour and government to reach a consensus so that the country can move forward.


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Adejuwon Soyinka
Adejuwon Soyinka

Adejuwon Soyinka is a Senior Assistant Editor/Head, Features desk and member, Editorial board of TELL Magazine. He is a journalist and writer with over 11 years experience. A graduate of the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and International Relations, Soyinka also took professional journalism training at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Ogba, Lagos. He also holds a diploma in Law degree from the Lagos State University.

Soyinka started his career as a journalist at TELL, Nigeria’s foremost investigative news magazine in 1999. He has over the years, had the privilege of networking and interacting with key individuals in virtually every sector of the Nigerian economy.

As a journalist, Soyinka has reported almost all the major sectors of the Nigerian society, economy and politics. In the process, he has been able to develop very robust relationships with individuals and organizations cutting across the various segments of the society both in the private and public sectors.

He has also worked at The PUNCH Newspaper as a Senior Correspondent from May, 2006 to July 2007. During this period, Soyinka reported health, education as well as wrote feature stories on subject areas like science, health, education and other development issues.

The rich, deep and varying degree of Soyinka’s experience can be aptly demonstrated by mentioning the fact that he won the Aviation sector reporter of the year award at the 2006 Nigerian Media Merit Award (NMMA). At the same event, he was equally adjudged runner up for the Political Reporter of the year award. Soyinka was also runner up Political reporter of the year award, NMMA, 2005, runner up Environment Reporter of the Year, 2007 and 2009, NMMA; winner, Professor Wole Soyinka Prize for Investigative Reporting, 2009, winner, Capital Market reporter of the year award, 2009; Winner, NMMA, Environment reporter of the Year Award and Winner, NMMA, Human Rights Reporter of Year Award both in 2010 among others.

He also had the privilege of taking a six-month break from active journalism between January and May, 2006 to work with an International development organization with a lot of experience in the Nigerian oil and gas sector.

During this period, his responsibilities were two-fold: Manage a portfolio of oil companies to whom he provided community relations/media consultancy services and drive a process of change in information management within the organization.

As a news manager, Soyinka is currently responsible for the coordination of the Features desk of TELL magazine. He is also directly responsible for generating story ideas and editing stories to be published in the Front of the Book, FOB and Back of the Book, BOB sections of the magazine, which includes every other story published by the magazine except the Cover story, Business stories and Politics, the other broad sections of the magazine.

Soyinka is married to Adebukola CEO, JADES communications Limited and the marriage is blessed with two girls and a boy.


We suspended strike, mass protests to avoid massacre —Owei Lakemfa

Written by Soji-Eze Fagbemi, Sunday, 22 January 2012

Against the popular belief, the Acting General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Owei Lakemfa, in this exclusive interview with our Assistant Editor, Soji-Eze Fagbemi, revealed the main reasons behind the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and NLC’s suspension of the general strike and mass protests against the fuel subsidy removal, even when their demand for reversal to N65 per litre was not met.

Comrade, in terms of success or otherwise, how will you describe the last general strike and mass protests over the removal of fuel subsidy by President Goodluck Jonathan?

The last strike and mass protests came at a huge cost in human lives. We are still compiling the figures of those who died and those that were injured, but the country has lost at least about 25 persons. The deaths were avoidable; take for instance the youths that were playing football and were shot by the police. So, it was a challenging period for all of us and we want to ensure that they did not die in vain and that those that were injured also do not suffer in vain.

In the process, Nigerians showed that sovereignty belongs to them and re-asserted such sovereignty. The message they sent out is that no government can take them for granted and we know that that basic lesson has been learnt by this administration and also by politicians who may aspire to public office. The third thing is that the government was made to shift its position which they had earlier said could not be reversed. The Nigerian people through their mass actions have shown that they can move mountains.

Another point is about corruption especially in the oil sector, because the oil sector is corruption-ridden, in fact the other name for the oil sector is corruption. We are trying to push the government and the government is saying that there is nothing they can do about it. But we are saying no, you can do something about it, Nigerians should not be made to suffer for such corruption in the sector. Now, the government has asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to move in and they are probing.

The House of Representatives is also doing a good job through the Hon. Faruk Lawan Committee and we can see the revelations. In fact, all the government agencies have various versions of all that is happening.

What has happened is that the truth is the major casualty in all these. We did not know how many litres of fuel, PMS we consume in this country. We have disputed the figures that it is up to 34 or 35 million litre per day and we said we want a practical demonstration to find out how we consume about 34 or 35 million litres a day. And that is what the government said; even the minister of petroleum gave those figures that we are consuming those figures of fuel in a day.

The presidency has given those figures, only for the Petroleum Products’ Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) to now come out to say that they are paying for 59 million litres a day. So, you can see the monumental fraud there. The Customs have come out to say that they don’t know anything about the importation in the oil industry.

That they are told to stay clear, so they don’t know or have anything about the bill of lading for ships bringing PMS to Nigeria. And so we have scored successes in those ones, and of course in showing that the N1.34 trillion the government has been claiming to be spending on subsidy is false.

The Minister of Petroleum last week admitted under oath in the House of Representative that the N1.34 trillion the government was talking about included payment for 2009 and 2010 and not the 2011 they are claiming. She also admitted that even out of that N1.34 trillion, at least N300 billion of it went for kerosene subsidy and not for PMS.

So, we have some of those gains that we have better information. Of course, the NLC along with the TUC had stated this when we met the President, that many of the claims by the Finance Minister, Mrs Okonjo Iweala, were false, that they had manipulated figures to suit their purpose and the cabals in the oil industry. At that point, the President had told us that ‘okay, we would want you to disprove us by bringing your own statistics.’

But as you can see, even the government itself had admitted that these things are fraudulent. For instance the Kolade Committee that is supposed to implement the SURE Programme is supposed to be working on some figures. Out of the N1.34 trillion, about N500 billion would go to the Federal Government but as you can see, there is no N1.3 trillion in the first place.

So, we think these are gains and what we need to do is consolidate on those gains. That is why we are going to engage the Alfa Belgore Committee which the government has set up, and we are also telling Nigerians, please don’t give up. Don’t just let these eight days protests end like this. If you have information, bring out. Let us continue to push, because what those eight days show is that we as Nigerians, in unity of purpose, we can bring about a change in our country, better governance is the basic thing we should evolve.
Initially, you demanded for a reversal to N65 per litre but the government merely reduced it to N97. Why did you suspend the strike when government did not meet your demand?
In the first place, we stopped the protests and rallies before the President even announced anything. As the organisers of those mass actions, as the people who have mobilised and brought tens of millions of Nigerians on the streets, at every given time, we are to analyse information that was coming in. Get information, analyse it and take decisions and one thing that was paramount in our mind is that we must do this thing peacefully and that there must be no loss of lives or even injuries.

That was paramount to us, but we knew that the government, the forces we are confronting, might not have such mind and might want to shoot, which happened in a number of cases. Secondly, we were quite conscious of the security situation in the country and that was why we warned the government months before that we have security challenges in Nigeria that are very serious like the bombings going on in most parts of the North, armed robbers that have taken over many states in the West, and kidnappers in the South-South and the South-East. We told government that ‘there were these security challenges, so don’t compound it by carrying out a policy that will mobilise the people solidly against you, because that time, you will then divert attention from the issue.’ And that was what happened, the entire government attentions, security forces, the Armed Forces, Police and State Security were diverted to the issue of strikes and protests, leaving the primary issue of security. So, we had mentioned those issues.
We continued to analyse the situation and by Saturday it was clear that the government was going for broke. By Sunday morning, we knew it was.

It was at that time we knew that the government had called all the governors together; we knew they are going for broke. Shortly before that meeting, we got hints that the Armed Forces had been let loose to go into the cities like Lagos, Abuja and Kano and take them over by force, get protesters off the street. We knew the Army was not going to use tear-gas, they are not going to use sticks or batons, we knew they were not going to use water cannons or rubber bullets; that they were going to use life ammunitions.

So that Sunday, we had to debate until the early hours of Monday, till past 2 a.m.; we had to discuss and debate whether we should stand, ask the people to continue protesting on the streets and confront the soldiers, police, the Navy and the Air Force who were there to shoot and kill which could then result in a massacre. It is not as if we thought that if there was a massacre, therefore the government would win, no! We knew that that point is a point of no return that anything could happen.
So the government was really ready to kill?

That was why they sent out soldiers. When you send out soldiers to seize streets from determined people, you are not sending them to go and hold a rally or negotiations, you are sending them to go and shoot and kill. And so, we had to debate and discuss whether we should risk that or begin immediate demobilisation, get people off the streets and go on with the small gains we have got including the lesson learnt. We debated that, it was a major thing and we thought as at that 2.30 a.m. on Monday morning, 16 January, that we should ask for a tactical withdrawal of Nigerians from the streets with our heads held high. So, it had nothing to do with the price of a litre of fuel at that point. In any case, this was announced the next day. It was not whether they offered us N97, no! We did not negotiate with the government, we did not. Hopefully now, we would go on and negotiate.

From what you can read on the social networks, many Nigerians are already blaming labour, accusing labour of collecting money to suspend the strike, how will you enlighten them to know the truth?
We don’t need to let anybody know whether we collected money or not, it is not an issue, because if it was about money, then we didn’t need to go on strike in the first place. If it was about money, then we wouldn’t have to let the strike linger for more than one day when it was very clear that Nigerians were angry and the government knew it. But you see, Nigerians have become quite sceptical. They would just think that nothing will happen without money. But I have told you what the issue was.

We had an obligation that we led Nigerians in their millions out on the streets; we had the duties and obligation to bring them back to their homes and their offices.

You said you were not in agreement with the Federal Government on the fixed N97 per litre of fuel?
Yes. We didn’t negotiate anything with them.

So, what is the way forward?
The way forward for us is that these revelations can also lead us to our own conviction that N65 was too high for us to pay in the first place. These revelations, provided the government is also interested, can lead the Belgore Committee in a different direction from the so called withdrawal of fuel subsidy. They might just find out that there is no subsidy in the first place, or as it has been shown in the House of Representatives, that the subsidy is mainly about fraud. About fuel that did not come into this country which they know because if the Minister of Petroleum and in fact the Presidency come out to say that we are consuming 34 million but in trying to find out whether it is true and the PPPRA says it is 59 million they are paying for, do you need anybody to tell you that it is all a fraudulent venture? And the whole thing about the PPPRA template is also a padded thing.

So, you are going to engage the Belgore Committee?
Beyond the Belgore Committee, we are also going to engage government and put pressure for good governance. The President of the country had addressed the nation and told us they are going to cut the cost of governance.

We would be pursuing that to ensure that the cost of governance is actually cut. The President of the country has told us that he is going to go after economic saboteurs who are destroying our economy, causing economy adversity, so we would have to follow this up to ensure that is done. The President of the country has said they would cleanse the oil industry; we are interested in cleansing the oil industry.
What are you presenting before the committee?
Which committee?

The Belgore Committee?
As you know, there are all sorts of facts that are available. Even if we are not going to bring our own fact, if we are going to rely on government facts, facts presented by the petroleum minister, by the NNPC, by the PPPRA, facts presented by Customs, by NEITI, they just show that the whole thing is just a fraudulent venture. Even if we are just going to use the facts presented by government agencies and government’s spokespersons, you know it is fraudulent.

Then of course we have our own facts, and we also have statistics that show that if we are going to refine fuel, we may not pay more than N40 per litre. We are going to present that fact to government, let them disprove it. If we are going to import fuel, we also may not pay up to N65.

Despite the suspension of the general strike and mass rallies by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), some groups of people still want to continue. What is labour’s conclusion on this?

The labour movement has led those protests and strikes and we have had this modest success. Any where any day, we will hold our heads high. We do not owe apology to anybody for our decision to stop a massacre on our streets. Now, there are some bodies, associations or politicians that said ‘no you shouldn`t have done that and we are going on with the fight,’ we say please go on, you have the constitutional and fundamental human rights to go on. We embarked on strikes and protests; we are not stopping anybody from doing that.

We are saying that we do not have the same objectives. Labour is not interested in regime change or change of government; we are interested in ensuring that governance is better, that we participate in the act of governance.

We are interested in a better country, we are interested in pushing our leaders, we are interested in insisting before the leadership of this country in accordance with Section 14 of the Nigerian Constitution that sovereignty belongs to the Nigeria people.

We are interested in fundamental human rights, we are interested in cutting the cost of governance, we are interested in ridding our country of corruption to the barest minimum and on all those we insist.

If there is need for a change of government, let us go to the ballot box through our constitution. The NLC and the TUC are not interested in changing government through any means except through the constitution.

But when you know these things initially, why did you allow those people making such statements to be part of the labour rallies and mass protests?
When we mobilised Nigerians, we said please come out on the streets and ventilate your feelings, organise protests in your communities, organise rallies, organise street protests in your cities and wherever you are, go on strike, shut the markets, shut air space, shut the roads, shut the country, shut the ports. However, we did not say people of certain political inclination, or politicians are excluded because these people, as far as labour is concerned, are Nigerians.

They and their political parties have the rights to demand for a change, for a replacement of government; what we just insisted on is that they should do it through the ballot box. So if a party comes out and say ‘if we are power we will not allow this kind of things to happen, in fact, if we come to power we are going to reverse this whole thing, they have the right to converse.’ We were not going to, and we are still not going to start censorship to decide what A can say and what B cannot say. No, the NLC is not interested in that.

Nigerians are free people; they have the right to canvass their position. We just say as labour, we want this position, if we are going to have a change, let it be through the ballot box.
With your continued engagement with government from now, do you still see the possibility that the fuel price can come down from the present N97 in the near future?

We are asking government to be led by facts, not by conclusion. So, if you go through the facts and we come into conclusion that the price of fuel should be lower, even lower than N65, there is no reason why government should not accept. Secondly, we are saying that there is nothing wrong in any manner with subsidy.

It is not a crime, in fact it should be part of governance to subsidise your people in various ways, especially in a sector as vital as the oil sector, which has immediate implication and can affect the people negatively. That in line with any type of economy system, we must have a comparative advantage for what we produce, and so when they say market forces, we say no, if we produce oil, then we must have some benefits for producing it. After all, we are suffering from economic problems, environmental degradation, disruption of our waters, of our wells, of our farms and the air we breathe and so you cannot come and tell me that we are going to get the same thing as the non-oil producers are getting. So, there is nothing wrong in subsidy.

From my understanding of the issue, it is not that labour is totally against deregulation, but from time, labour has been demanding for certain things to…(cuts in)
What is deregulation? Deregulation for Nigerian government is increase in fuel price, so it is not deregulation.

But you are canvassing for certain things to be on ground, such as good and effective transportation system, adequate power supply and the rest before subsidy can be tampered with?
We are even saying that those are basic needs.

Electricity is not a new technology and all modern countries whether it is China, USA, Germany or Russia have developed using electricity. Electricity is not something that should not be affordable, electricity is a need, so it makes sense for any government to provide electricity. Not just a provision but also to ensure it is extremely cheap and can be used by people for development. The same thing about roads, people should be able to move around.

The same thing about mass transit, you cannot have a country of 167 million people and you do not have a mass transit system like rail to move people from one point to the other. So you don’t even need the whole issue of fuel subsidy withdrawal or any battle about fuel to provide these things.

They are basic needs and it is a shame for any government to come out and say because we are going to provide this, so we withdraw this. Don’t forget we have budgetary provisions, what are they used for.


December 24, 2011

Journey of Hope

The Back-to-Africa Movement in Arkansas in the Late 1800s

by Kenneth C. Barnes Copyright (c) 2004 by the University of North Carolina Press. All rights reserved.


Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to be free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Emma Lazarus, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, penned these famous lines in 1883 for the Statue of Liberty, then being constructed by the French Republic as a gift to the United States of America. Nearly a decade later, Lady Liberty would witness an ironic scene unfolding in New York Harbor. On the rainy afternoon of 10 March 1892, the Dutch steamer Werkendam arrived after a two-week voyage from Rotterdam on the North Sea. The 569 passengers speaking Dutch, German, Russian, Polish, Italian, and a host of other European languages must have chattered excitedly about their hope for a better life in America. One can imagine that many eyes became misty as they beheld Lady Liberty, torch held high, next to Ellis Island, which had opened just two months before. As the Werkendam made its way into the bay, it passed a much smaller, old-fashioned sailing ship, the Liberia, which had left Pier 6 on the East River earlier in the day. The Liberia was packed to the brim with black families from Morrilton, Arkansas, who were leaving the United States to return to their ancestral homeland of Africa.[1] Perhaps the passengers of the Werkendam and the Liberia waved to each other as they passed in the bay. This image sums up the paradox of American society in the 1890s. While millions of Europeans were coming to the United States to follow their dream of political freedom and economic opportunity, thousands of black Americans, especially in Arkansas, were equally anxious to get out of this county. The hope for many African Americans centered on the Republic of Liberia in West Africa.
As Africa’s only independent black republic, Liberia encouraged and symbolized race pride for African Americans in the late 1800s. With an elected black government that offered American settlers free land, Liberia represented a chance for a better life for the South’s black farmers. Interest in African emigration peaked among black southerners in the 1890s, a time when cotton prices hit rock bottom and white racism reached its zenith. The 1890s saw the greatest number of lynchings in American history. As it became increasingly clear that black Americans would not get a seat at the table, Liberia posed an alternative to integration, an escape to an all-black world. One black man from central Arkansas asked in 1890: “Ar tha any White People over in liBery? if there is—none [of us] ar going there.”[2]
Of all areas of the South, Liberia emigration fever was most intense during the late 1800s in Arkansas. More Liberia-bound emigrants left from Arkansas than from any other state—more than a third of all known black American emigrants to Africa in the years from 1879 to 1899—despite the fact that Arkansas’s black population was smaller than that of any of its southern neighbors.[3] And for each one of the approximately 600 who left Arkansas for Africa, hundreds more applied unsuccessfully to go. To understand the back-to-Africa movement in the post-Reconstruction and Jim Crow years, one must examine Arkansas. Ironically, before the 1890s, Arkansas had served as a destination for black migrants leaving other southern states. A high percentage of African American men voted in Arkansas elections, and many held public offices on the county level. But Jim Crow measures, disfranchisement, and a wave of brutal racial violence dramatically changed the situation for black Arkansans. I will argue that the rapidity of this shift from relative well-being to subjugation, rather than the magnitude of the oppression, convinced many African Americans to leave not just Arkansas or the South but the entire United States. The Arkansas counties with the most competitive political environments, where white elites most targeted black voters, saw the most intense interest in African emigrations. Among sharecroppers and country preachers there swelled a remarkable wave of fascination with Africa—as a place of refuge from white oppression and as an ancestral land that helped define a black national identity. While middle-class blacks were more resolved to live as black Americans, many rural poor folk gave up on the United States and looked to Liberia to construct a better life. This study will compare the Liberian dreams to the reality Arkansas emigrants found in their African fatherland. For those who left, and for those who stayed behind, the meaning of Liberian emigration was simple: it was a journey of hope.
Earlier in the nineteenth century, Liberia evoked mixed images in the minds of black Americans. People of color must have pondered a return to Africa as soon as they arrived in the New World, but an organized back-to-Africa movement began in the late 1700s. British abolitionists worked together with free black immigrants to found Sierra Leone on the continent’s west coast as a place for the return of black people from British territory. The first black settlers arrived from England in 1787, and others came afterward from Nova Scotia and Jamaica. Sierra Leone became a British crown colony in 1808.[4] In the United States, black Americans’ discussion of African colonization originated among New England religious circles that opposed slavery and the slave trade. Paul Cuffe, a prosperous half-black, half-Indian Quaker of Massachusetts who owned a small fleet of whaling ships, transported thirty-eight free blacks to Sierra Leone, largely at his own expense, late in 1815. Cuffe died two years later, but he had inspired a movement.[5]
Humanitarian concerns, like those of Cuffe, joined with very different motives to found the American Colonization Society, just before Cuffe’s death. Slave owners in the South had become increasingly worried about the presence of a free black population clustering in southern towns. Some whites thought the very existence of a free black community undermined the slavery system and inspired slaves to revolt. In 1816, the Virginia legislature, dominated by slave owners, asked the U.S. Congress to find a territory on the African coast to become a place of asylum for free blacks and emancipated American slaves. Slave owners and antislavery forces gathered at the Davis Hotel in December 1816 in Washington, D.C., and founded the American Society for Colonizing Free People of Color in the United States, a name later shortened to the American Colonization Society (ACS). At this first meeting, antislavery leaders, such as Daniel Webster, promoted the idea of an African colony as a place of protection for a persecuted people while slave owners, such as Henry Clay, who chaired the first assembly, saw an African colony as a dumping ground for free blacks who had no place in America. Through its early years, the ACS struggled with this tension between humanitarian and racist motivations. Black Americans stood divided on the issue of emigration. A few black church leaders gave signals of support for the ACS, and free blacks in Richmond, Virginia, made the first public pronouncement in January 1817 favoring emigration. But most free blacks in northern communities such as Philadelphia, New York, and Boston united against emigration, seeing it as a ploy to expel free blacks from the United States.[6]
On 21 January 1820, the ship Elizabeth sailed from New York carrying a party of eighty-six free blacks from the Illinois Territory who had volunteered to resettle in Africa. The ACS had received financial and moral support for this expedition from President James Monroe. Nearly a decade after Congress had outlawed the slave trade, American ships were still capturing and confiscating cargoes of illegal slaves bound for the New World, and by 1819 a new slave trade act had authorized the president to establish a place in coastal West Africa where recaptured slaves could be returned. Thus, the ACS began its resettlement work as a private agency carrying out a public policy. The Elizabeth arrived in Sierra Leone, where the settlers waited for more than a year while white agents acting on behalf of the U.S. government and the ACS located a site for a colony. They found one at Cape Mesurrado, more than 200 miles south of Freetown, Sierra Leone, where a rocky promontory juts out into the sea near the mouth of the mighty St. Paul River. After much discussion with the local African ruler—the agents ultimately put a gun to his head to encourage cooperation—the ACS received the cape in exchange for an assorted package of rum, muskets, beads, tobacco, and other items worth in total less than $300. The settlers in Sierra Leone, augmented by another group recently arrived from the United States, first set foot in the colony on 25 April 1822. The ACS named the colony Liberia, after the Latin liber, meaning free man. The colonists choose the name Monrovia for their first permanent settlement, in honor of the president’s support for the colonization effort.[7]
The first settlers, and virtually all the emigrants from America, struggled to survive in their new environment. The ACS agents had chosen one of the most inhospitable locations in West Africa for their colony. Beyond the rocky hill overlooking the coast, mosquito-infested swamps surrounded the new town of Monrovia. Settlers invariably came down with malaria in the first months after arrival. Nearly a quarter of the early settlers to Liberia died within the first year of settlement. Those who survived the “seasoning” found it difficult to make a living. The thin, leached soil did not easily yield American food crops, and settlers found local foods unpalatable. The early settlers eschewed agriculture and largely subsisted on imported foods. They searched in vain for some commodity in demand on the world market, first looking for gold or ivory, then finding camwood, used in the dye industry. But the venture never became economically profitable.[8] Nevertheless, yearly reinforcements brought settlers to Liberia, which remained a colony of the ACS for the next twenty-five years. The society’s resident agent in Monrovia presided over the colony, assisted by an elected council of settlers.
The emigration of free blacks to Liberia particularly increased after the Nat Turner rebellion in 1831. During the next year in Maryland, for example, the state legislature passed laws restricting the liberties of free people of color and even appropriated money to pay for their resettlement outside the state’s boundaries. In 1832, the American Colonization Society resettled 796 emigrants to Liberia, more than in any year of its history, and the Maryland auxiliary of the ACS itself sent another 146. As the movement became increasingly dominated in the 1830s by slave owners who wanted Liberia to absorb the free blacks of the South, antislavery forces largely turned against the society. William Lloyd Garrison led the charge, decrying African colonization as a plot to continue the slave system in America. Prominent free black leaders, such as David Walker, loudly and consistently denounced the colonization enterprise through the emerging black press, from pulpits, and at every national Negro convention of the 1830s. In a time of conflict within the ACS, state auxiliaries, such as the one in Maryland, began to go their own ways and even establish their own resettlement colonies along the coast southeast of Monrovia. Despite this internal dissension in the society, some free blacks, mostly from slaveholding states, continued to apply for emigration. A few slave owners emancipated slaves with the expressed goal of sending them to Liberia. In addition, more than 5,000 African slaves, confiscated by the U.S. Navy on the high seas, were returned to Africa and left in the colony of Liberia.[9]
Liberia’s status changed when the colony gave way to an independent republic on 26 July 1847, a day still celebrated as Liberia’s national holiday. It had become evident that a colony owned by a private philanthropic society had little legal and diplomatic standing. Under ACS direction, the settlers drew up a constitution based on that of the United States and designed a flag, again emulating the American model. Thus, beginning in 1847, an elected president and congress of black American settlers governed Liberia, and the ACS’s role became virtually that of an emigration agency, transporting settlers and assisting them once they arrived in country.
Emigration picked up in the 1850s when the new Fugitive Slave Act encouraged runaway slaves to seek a destination outside the United States. And then the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision in 1857 demonstrated that people of color possessed no rights that white people of America were obligated to respect. Many free blacks became even more pessimistic about any future in the United States. Free black leaders, still viewing the ACS as a racist organization in league with white slave owners, sought other locations for black emigration. Martin R. Delany, a prominent black physician, tried to establish a colony in the Yoruba region of today’s Nigeria as an area for American settlement. Others looked to Haiti or Central America as destinations. But these movements had leaders but few followers. No settlers actually emigrated to Delany’s Nigeria colony, and only a few North Americans moved to Haiti.[10] However, by the beginning of the Civil War, nearly 13,000 black American settlers had come to Liberia, and the black republic controlled a strip of English-speaking settlements scattered along 250 miles of coastline, a few miles deep. Indigenous Africans, who always formed the majority of Liberia’s residents, were considered neither “Liberians” nor citizens, and they had no voice in the republic’s affairs.
By 1861, the Republic of Liberia had emerged as a symbol that could unite or divide black public opinion. Some black Americans, as well as white abolitionists, believed Liberia’s very existence suggested that persons of African descent had no place in America outside of slavery. Prominent black leaders saw the American Colonization Society as a white man’s movement that was part of America’s racial problem, not its solution. Others saw in the Liberian Republic a symbol of black nationalism, a place where “civilized” black people ruled themselves. At the end of her famous novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe sent George and Eliza off to Liberia with their family but kept some of her black characters home in the United States. George, the strong and angry black man, cannot live in America but expresses his black nationalist feelings by building up the black Republic of Liberia. Likewise, in real life, some emigrants applied to the ACS every year willing to trade in their residence in the United States to follow their African dreams.
Black interest in Liberia emigration plummeted when the Civil War promised the end of slavery and meaningful change to the status of black Americans. Ironically, President Abraham Lincoln’s administration suddenly became interested in colonizing freed slaves, especially those who trailed behind occupying Union armies throughout the South. Looking past Liberia, Lincoln’s officials searched for locations closer at hand, in the Caribbean or Central America, for the resettlement of freed persons. Despite a congressional appropriation for colonization, the Lincoln administration mustered only one small unsuccessful colonization expedition to Haiti. Likewise, the ACS during the war had difficulty finding emigrants for Liberia and ultimately had to recruit settlers from Barbados instead of the United States.[11]
The end of the Civil War saw significant change in the fortunes of the American Colonization Society and the idea of African colonization. By the time the society celebrated its fiftieth birthday in 1867, its revenues had sharply declined, its loyal following of wealthy white men had largely grown old and died, and the state auxiliaries for the most part had ceased their operations. The ACS had really become the work of one man, William Coppinger, the society’s corresponding secretary, who after 1872 worked out of an office on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Coppinger, a white Quaker, had begun work with the colonization movement in 1838 as a ten-year-old office boy in the Pennsylvania auxiliary. By 1864, he became corresponding secretary of the ACS and devoted the rest of his life, until his death in 1892, to the work of Liberia emigration. He single-handedly administered the ACS’s dwindling resources, edited the society’s quarterly journal, the African Repository, corresponded with the people who desired to resettle in Liberia, and made the arrangements for those accepted for emigration. A dedicated, humble, self-effacing man, Coppinger appeared to believe sincerely that freed people of the American South could better their lives through emigration to Liberia, and he worked tirelessly to that end. No longer a big-budget institution, the American Colonization Society had become virtually a one-man show.[12]
But at the same time, the momentum in the back-to-Africa movement was shifting from white northerners to poor black farmers in the South. Freedom’s rewards were slow in coming and fewer than expected. The Liberian government promised twenty-five acres of free land for each emigrant family, ten acres for a single adult, who came to the black republic. After the war’s end, Secretary Coppinger made yearly trips to Georgia and the Carolinas recruiting emigrants. Between 1865 and 1869, the ACS expended much of its remaining funds and transported a record number of 2,394 emigrants to Liberia, more than the society would send over the next thirty years. Through the 1870s, with even less money in its treasury, the ACS sent a yearly average of only ninety-eight emigrants, and that average dropped to seventy-four in the 1880s. Finally, in 1892, the society decided to stop sending groups of emigrants entirely.[13] However, the decline in the number of emigrants in the post-Reconstruction years reflects the dwindling financial resources of the society, not motivation among African Americans. In fact, the most intense black interest in emigration, as measured by the volume of the ACS’s incoming correspondence, came in the late 1870s and early 1890s. Both of these periods were moments of sharp racial conflict, and nowhere was the desire for African emigration greater than Arkansas.
African Americans’ desire to move out of the South swelled as Reconstruction came to a halt in 1877. Reconstruction had been winding down gradually before its final closure. White Democrats had reclaimed state governments in Tennessee by 1869; in North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia by 1870; in Arkansas, Alabama, and Texas by 1874; and in Mississippi by 1875. By 1877, the party of Lincoln controlled only the statehouses of Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana. Public opinion in the North had begun to sour on military occupation of the South, and business interests in the Republican Party pushed for the reintegration of southern states into the national economy. The election of Rutherford B. Hayes as president in 1876 signaled the end of federal oversight of local affairs in the South. Ironically, Hayes’s campaign platform called for strong protection of black citizens in the South. But when the election mired down in controversy because of disputed returns in Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana, Republicans worked out a compromise that gave them the presidency in exchange for measures formally ending Reconstruction. In an extremely complex turn of events, the necessary electoral votes went to Hayes while the statehouses in the disputed states went to the Democrats. Hayes withdrew the federal troops from South Carolina and Louisiana and included some southern Democrats, even ex-Confederates, in his federal patronage and cabinet appointments. Historians have debated whether Hayes’s policy reflected a genuine attempt to heal sectional strife or a mere ploy to win a disputed election and consolidate power. In any case, Reconstruction, with its use of force to protect the rights of black citizens, had come to an end.[14]
The symbolic meaning of Hayes’s policy seemed clear to white southern Democrats. The federal government, while it would use troops to fight Indians in the West and to break a railroad strike in northern cities in the summer of 1877, would not intervene in southern affairs. In black-majority areas, white Democrats had already begun using terror tactics against black Republican voters in the elections of 1875 and 1876. Before the state elections in Mississippi in 1875, white military companies in Yazoo and Coahoma Counties, deep in the delta, attacked black Republican meetings and murdered several black leaders.[15] In South Carolina’s piedmont area, gangs of white men rode through the countryside before the 1876 election terrorizing black neighborhoods and keeping Republican voters home on election day. Obviously, Hayes’s actions of 1877 further emboldened white Democrats. The violence and fraud in the next election, the state and congressional races of 1878, shocked many northern Republicans into admitting the failure of the president’s southern policy. Again the atrocities were greatest in black-majority states where white Democrats needed to suppress black Republican votes to get or maintain power. Reports from Louisiana suggested that animals preyed upon the unburied bodies of African Americans slain on election day. The number of Republican ballots cast in South Carolina dropped from 90,000 in the fraudulent 1876 election to a mere 4,000 in 1878. The Republican Party thus crumbled in the Black Belt southern states that had the largest number of potential Republican voters.[16]
The pattern would continue in the 1880 elections. Only two Republican votes were recorded in Yazoo County, Mississippi, a county that was 75 percent black. The Republican presidential candidate of 1880, James A. Garfield, received his lowest percentage of votes in states that had the highest proportion of black residents, while he polled the greatest percentage of southern votes in border states with the lowest black populations.[17] Thus, African Americans virtually lost voting rights in the areas where their numbers threatened white control.
African Americans understood the meaning of the president’s retreat from Reconstruction. In the same areas where Reconstruction’s end brought sudden change to their political status, a black migration movement took root quickly and sprouted in the last three years of the 1870s. The day after President Hayes withdrew federal troops from South Carolina, John Mardenborough, a black lawyer in Edgefield County, wrote to the American Colonization Society’s office in Washington begging the society to send a group of seventy-five local black residents to Liberia. Edgefield County, in fact, was known throughout South Carolina for the most extreme political violence against black citizens. Mardenborough explained why his group wished to leave Edgefield County: “While I write a colored woman comes and tells me her husband was killed last night in her presence by white men and her children burned to death in the house; she says her person was outraged by these men and then she was whipped—such things as these are common occurrences. In the name of God can not the Society send us to Africa or some where else where we can live without ill treatment?”[18]
By the summer of 1877, interest in Liberia emigration had spread throughout South Carolina. One of the black leaders from Edgefield County, Harrison N. Bouey, traveled to Charleston to serve on a federal jury, and there he linked up with others interested in emigration. When Bouey arrived in Charleston, “Professor” J. C. Hazeley, a native African, was in town to deliver lectures promoting African emigration at the Morris Brown African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Apparently displeased with the ACS’s response to prospective emigrants, leaders at these meetings proposed the formation of a joint stock company to purchase their own ship and to transport emigrants to Africa. Thus was born the Liberian Exodus Joint Stock Steamship Company, which sold stock at ten dollars a share. By early 1878, the company had raised $6,000 and purchased a ship in Boston, the Azor, which arrived in the port of Charleston in March. Five thousand people turned out for the worship service that consecrated the vessel into service. The elderly Martin R. Delany, eminent Charlestonian and longtime promoter of African emigration, spoke, as did the Reverend Henry McNeal Turner, future bishop of the AME Church and the coming generation’s spokesman for the emigration cause. A month later, the Azor finally set sail with 206 passengers, and 175 more remained behind awaiting a second voyage. But the Azor would never sail again. Upon its return, bills from the first voyage came due, and the ship was sold at auction the next year to pay the company’s debts.[19]
At the same time that black South Carolinians were organizing for African emigration, a similar movement broke out in Louisiana. As early as December 1875, a group of black clergymen from Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia had held a conference in New Orleans to assess the situation for southern blacks. The group discussed migration to the western territories or to Liberia. One of the delegates to the meeting, Henry Adams, a tireless political organizer from Caddo Parish, in northwest Louisiana, returned home and founded the Colonization Council to plan a way to go somewhere, anywhere, outside of the South. In July 1877, Adams’s council drew up a petition to President Hayes asking for the government either to protect rights of black citizens or to give them a territory of their own. If Hayes could do neither, the petition asked for a federal appropriation of funds to send them back to their own land, Africa. The next month, Adams wrote to the American Colonization Society claiming to speak for 69,000 African Americans in Louisiana, southern Arkansas, and eastern Texas who wished to move to Liberia. The aspiring emigrants even proposed to send a delegation to Liberia to investigate the conditions there and report back to the group. Coppinger made it clear that the ACS could not fund a mass migration to Liberia and that any investigative delegation must travel at its own expense. He encouraged the group to keep organized, collect dues, and send a few settlers each year. Given the impoverished conditions under which they lived, this advice could hardly satisfy. Only seven known emigrants left Louisiana for Liberia, a group from New Orleans settled by the ACS in 1876.[20]
As possibilities for emigration to Liberia were waning, interest shifted to a destination closer at hand: Kansas. Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, a former slave from Tennessee, had arrived in Kansas in the mid-1870s and immediately begun work to promote the state as a haven for black settlers. Singleton and other land developers circulated handbills throughout the South encouraging black people to consider Kansas. Political actions further inspired black southerners to move west. In January of 1879, Senator William Windom of Minnesota introduced a resolution calling for a U.S. Senate committee to study the feasibility of federal aid for migration of black citizens from areas where their rights were denied to western territories where they would be respected. After much debate in the Senate, the Windom resolution eventually died from inaction, but rumors about the resolution swept through the South and further inspired black interest in migration and the possibility of governmental assistance. By spring 1879, Liberia fever in the lower South had become Kansas fever, and hundreds of migrants camped along the Mississippi River waiting for steamboats to take them north. Reports of a mass migration from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas in particular aroused much interest among politicians and newspaper editors. The U.S. Senate even established a select committee to investigate the situation. However, informed estimates suggest that only around 8,000 black migrants actually moved to Kansas in 1879 and 1880. Poverty rather than lack of interest probably best explains the modest numbers, for few rural blacks could afford the steamboat and railroad passage needed to get to Kansas.[21] The Kansas exodus of 1879, like the Liberia emigration movement, illustrates the keen interest among African Americans in escaping political oppression in the South. While in antebellum years, free black Americans had criticized the American Colonization Society as a racist organization hell-bent on removing the country’s free black population, one can only wonder what slaves may have thought or said about Liberia in the years before freedom. After Reconstruction’s end in 1877, most prominent black leaders continued to oppose African migration, but for ordinary black Americans, many whose lives had begun as slaves, Liberia became a symbol of a new life, free from white oppression. These men and women were more than willing to work with the ACS to get to Africa. During the late 1800s, as the back-to-Africa movement shifted from being a white man’s institution to a black grassroots movement, interest would be no greater anywhere than in Arkansas. The story of Arkansas’s African emigration movement will illustrate not just the severe realities for black southerners in the late 1800s but also their hopes and dreams for a better life.

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Back-to-Africa Movement

The Back-to-Africa Movement mobilized thousands of African-American Arkansans who wished to leave the state for the Republic of Liberia in the late 1800s. Approximately 650 emigrants left from Arkansas, more than from any other American state, in the 1880s and 1890s, the last phase of organized group migration of black Americans to Liberia.

As early as 1820, black Americans had begun to return to their ancestral homeland through the auspices of the American Colonization Society (ACS), an organization headquartered in Washington DC, which arranged transportation and settlement. The ACS founded the Republic of Liberia in 1847, with its flag and constitution emulating American models, and nearly 13,000 redeemed slaves and free blacks had settled there before the Civil War. With the Civil War and abolition of slavery, the Back-to-Africa movement declined. However, interest in an African migration rekindled after Reconstruction ended and conditions for black Americans worsened in the late 1870s.

In several Delta counties of eastern Arkansas, white Democrats used extraordinary measures during the 1878 elections to keep African Americans from voting. In Phillips County, which was approximately seventy-five percent black, Democrats even stationed a heavy cannon in front of the main black polling place. Anthony L. Stanford, a black physician and Methodist preacher who also served as Phillips County’s Republican state senator, contacted the ACS, requesting assistance with emigration of a number of black citizens to Africa. In 1879, he led twenty-three residents of Phillips County to Liberia, and another 118 emigrants followed the next year from Phillips and Woodruff counties. Whereas Phillips County had polled a Republican majority in the 1876 presidential election, by the gubernatorial election of 1880, only ten Republican votes were cast in the county that had more than 15,000 black residents. Clearly, the Back-to-Africa movement was motivated by the deterioration in status of black citizens in the Delta in the late 1870s.

Conditions improved somewhat in the 1880s. Black men appear to have regained the franchise in the 1882 elections, and black Republican officials were elected to local offices in Delta counties through the rest of the decade. The 1880s also saw a massive in-migration as African Americans from the Deep South, especially South Carolina, fled their own oppressive conditions and looked to Arkansas as a place of plentiful work and cheap land. The 1880s seemed to be a time of promise for black Arkansans, and interest in African emigration waned but never went away. The Reverend Henry McNeal Turner of Atlanta, the foremost advocate nationally for African emigration, was elected bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in 1880 and was appointed to the eighth district, composed of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Indian Territory. Throughout the 1880s and early 1890s, Turner made yearly trips to Arkansas to preside over annual church meetings, and he always used the pulpit to promote emigration and missions to Africa. In 1886 and 1887, an African man, self-proclaimed “professor” Jacob C. Hazeley, traveled around the state giving lectures accompanied by picture displays about Africa. Hazeley encouraged interested parties to apply for emigration to the ACS. A farm family from Lee County and a schoolteacher from Fort Smith (Sebastian County) emigrated to Liberia in 1882. Three more left from Conway County in 1883, a family of eight from Phillips County emigrated in 1887, and a Faulkner County family of eight moved to Liberia in the spring of 1889.

However, it would be the return of political and racial violence in the late 1880s and early 1890s that made Liberia fever rage through black precincts of Arkansas. In the 1888 and 1890 elections, the Democratic Party faced opposition by a biracial alliance of the rural poor with the cooperation between the agrarian populist movement and the Republican Party. To win the elections, fraud and terror tactics eclipsed those used in 1878 in degree and scale. The Democratic-controlled state legislature in 1891 passed laws aimed at disfranchising black and poor white voters. Before the session ended, the General Assembly crafted Jim Crow segregation laws. In the year that would follow disfranchisement, some of the most horrific lynchings in American history occurred in Arkansas.

In response, black Arkansas sharecroppers and small landowners flooded the ACS office in Washington with letters begging for passage to Africa. As more information circulated back to Arkansas, interest only swelled. Would-be emigrants formed at least forty “Liberia Exodus” clubs that elected officers and held regular meetings, often disguising their true purposes from white neighbors hostile to the movement. Applications for emigration came in from the majority of Arkansas’s seventy-five counties, but interest was particularly keen in areas where political conflict was most intense—in Woodruff, St. Francis, Lonoke, and Jefferson counties in east-central Arkansas and the Arkansas River Valley from Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Atkins (Pope County). In Conway County alone, which experienced some of the most spectacular political violence, nearly 1,500 African Americans, about twenty percent of the county’s black population, formally applied to emigrate to Liberia. Most of the emigrants sent by the ACS to Liberia in the early 1890s hailed from Arkansas, including nearly 100 from Morrilton (Conway County) and Plumerville (Conway County) and forty-four from Little Rock and Argenta (now North Little Rock in Pulaski County). A group of thirty-four would-be emigrants from Woodruff County sold their possessions and traveled to New York City in 1892 to beg unsuccessfully for passage to Africa. Their unexpected arrival created a refugee crisis for the ACS, leading it to end its seventy-five-year long resettlement program. The society got out of the emigration business just at the time demand was greatest in Arkansas. To address this interest, some white businessmen in Birmingham, Alabama, formed a company that transported to Liberia more than 200 Arkansans, mostly from Jefferson, St. Francis, and Lonoke counties, in three voyages between 1894 and 1896. A few additional black Arkansans booked commercial passage on steamers that traveled to Liberia from New York via ports in Europe. The interest in Africa spilled over into missionary work. Approximately a dozen black Arkansans and their families traveled to Africa in the 1890s as missionaries, a number representing nearly a quarter of known black missionaries to Africa in that decade.

For the black Arkansans who emigrated, their African Promised Land brought great challenges and some rewards. The Republic of Liberia granted each emigrant family twenty-five acres of free land and settled most of the Arkansas arrivals together in two communities, Brewerville and Johnsonville, a few miles into the interior from the capital, Monrovia. In the heart of the tropics and one of the wettest places in Africa, Liberia hosted a variety of diseases, especially potent strains of malaria that ravaged the emigrant population. People struggled with illness just when they had the most work to do—clearing land, planting crops, and building homes. Settlers had to adjust to new foods and lifestyles and learn to grow a new cash crop, coffee, instead of cotton. The Arkansas emigrants of 1879 and the 1880s prospered through coffee cultivation. However, the coffee trees planted by settlers of the 1890s began to produce berries just in time for the cataclysmic drop in coffee prices, as production in Brazil began to glut the world market in the late 1890s. Several Arkansas emigrants returned to America; perhaps more wished to return but lacked the money for passage. But many of these new Liberians apparently were pleased with their new home. In the words of one Arkansas settler, William Rogers, who wrote back to family in Morrilton, Liberia was “the colored man’s home, the only place on earth where they have equal rights.” What Rogers liked best about Liberia, he said, was that “there are no white men here to give orders; and when you go in your house, there is no one to stand out, and call you to the door and shoot you when you come out. We have no foreman over us; we are our own boss. We work when we want to, and sit down when we choose, and eat when we get ready.” Some of the Arkansas families became prominent in the black republic. Victoria David Tolbert, Liberia’s former first lady whose husband, President William Tolbert, was murdered in the violent coup of 1980, was the daughter of Isaac David, who left Little Rock in 1891 with his family at the age of five.

For additional information:
Barnes, Kenneth C. Journey of Hope: The Back-to-Africa Movement in Arkansas in the Late 1800s. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Redkey, Edwin S. Black Exodus: Black Nationalist and Back-to-Africa Movements, 1890–1910. Yale University Press, 1969.

Patton, Adell, Jr. “The Back-to-Africa Movement in Arkansas.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 51 (Summer 1992): 164–177.

American Colonization Society Records. Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

Kenneth C. Barnes

University of Central Arkansas
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December 24, 2011

Stanford Report, March 1, 2006
Historian situates ‘back-to-Africa’ movements in broad context
L.A. Cicero davis

David Brion Davis, foreground, responded to a question during a discussion session connected to the Tanner Lectures on Human Values, which he delivered on campus last week. Panelist Walter Johnson looks on.


The so-called “back to Africa” movements, which sent American blacks, willingly and unwillingly, as colonists to West Africa and elsewhere during the 19th and 20th centuries, often have been considered as a kind of sidebar to American history.

In presenting the Tanner Lectures on Human Values on campus last week, noted slavery historian David Brion Davis made the experience of African American colonists in Liberia, and the symbolic meaning of colonization, the centerpiece of his talks. In two lectures titled “Exodus, Exiles and Promised Lands,” Davis, the Sterling Professor of History, Emeritus, at Yale University, also put African American colonization within the broader context of the global history of mass deportations of groups of unwanted people by linking it to the archetypal story in Exodus of the Israelites fleeing Egypt. And he described a circuitous route by which colonization fueled black nationalism and played an ironic but crucial role in the development of the civil rights movement.

Davis is the author of many books, including the seminal works The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (1966) and The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution: 1770-1823 (1975). His two lectures were based on three chapters of an upcoming third volume, The Problem of Slavery in an Age of Emancipation, which will complete the series.

Davis’ talks, and the public discussions that followed them, underscored the broad support of colonization by African Americans in West Africa and elsewhere at various moments in the 19th century and the persistence of the idea into the 20th century. Virtually every national leader from Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln held the conviction that blacks and whites could not coexist as free and equal citizens, Davis wrote in his 2003 book, Challenging the Boundaries of Slavery.

A list of supporters of African American colonization would include “John Marshall, James Madison, Daniel Webster, Andrew Jackson, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, Stephen A. Douglas and even Harriet Beecher Stowe,” Eric Foner, the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, pointed out in a discussion session on Friday.

The motives of whites for supporting the colonization movement were themselves complex and contradictory, Davis demonstrated. The American Colonization Society (ACS), which was founded in 1816, had the support both of white philanthropists who sought a refuge for blacks from degrading living conditions and slave owners who were living under the “nuclear threat” of the Haitian revolution. Slave owners wanted free blacks removed from the nation for fear that they might ignite an insurrection among slaves.

Historians understandably have treated the ACS with hostility, Davis said. But the inherent racism in the ACS should not obscure the fact that 19th-century colonizationists were, on many points, more realistic than the abolitionists, Davis said.

It’s not that colonization was the right solution, the historian said, but colonizationists believed—with good reason, it would turn out—that “white racial prejudice would remain intractable for generations, that progress would depend on black solidarity and collective effort, and that emancipation could not be divorced from the crucial need for a social and economic climate in which freed people could exercise their full capacities for human development.”
‘A city on a hill’

African American settlers in Liberia, who took to Africa with them American political, social, cultural and legal conventions, were frequently likened to the founders of Jamestown and Plymouth colonies, Davis said. Nineteenth-century supporters of colonization envisioned a role for settlers in Liberia of “civilizing” Africa and building a society that would be as attractive to American blacks as the United States had proved to be for immigrants, Davis said. Liberia was to be, as John Winthrop imagined Puritan settlements, “a city on a hill,” he said.

Black immigration to Liberia was framed within the Exodus narrative, much as the first English colonists in North America had conceived of their migration as a journey to the Promised Land, Davis said. Supporters of British colonization to Virginia promoted it as a way to bring civility and Christianity to the “savages” of North America, and to redeem England of the idleness and crime of its unemployed masses, Davis said. “The failure of all these expectations did not kill the initial dream or deter Virginians and other Americans from applying a very similar formula, over two centuries later, to the colonization of Africa.”

In Liberia, with limited aid from the United States, the Americo-Liberians built churches, schools and colleges, maintained stable political parties, managed to assimilate Africans liberated from slave ships by the U.S. Navy and established a constitutional republic in 1847, Davis said. The survival of their nation made an important though often overlooked contribution to black pride and hope, Davis said.

Achievement in Liberia also underlined the futility of progress for blacks in a society dedicated to white supremacy, he said. Slave emancipation in the northern states had led to a black population living in abject poverty and deprived of education, civil rights and any hope of meaningful improvement, he said.

Although colonization was in many ways disastrous—malaria decimated the colonists and Americo-Liberians engaged in bloody battles with tribes who were already living in West Africa—the experience of African Americans in Liberia helped nourish black nationalism and, in turn, an increasingly popular domestic demand for equal civil rights, he said.

In the 20th century Marcus Garvey championed colonization and compared immigration to Liberia to the Jewish recovery of Palestine, Davis said. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., Davis said, Garvey was the first man “on a mass scale and level to give millions of Negroes a sense of dignity and destiny and make the Negro feel he was somebody.”

A glaring defect of colonization ideology was its failure to recognize that “from the very beginnings of American history, the lives of blacks and whites had been intertwined on the most complex social, cultural, economic and psychological levels,” Davis said. Whites themselves were yoked to the blacks they had enslaved, he said. “The nation as a whole, modeled on ancient dreams of deliverance and fulfillment, could march no farther forward than all the victims of its self-betrayal.”

Efforts to remove African Americans from society have not ended, suggested sociologist Larry Bobo, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Centennial Professor, at a discussion session Thursday. “Are we not in the process of creating incredibly harsh new ‘internal colonies’ with our vast prison industrial complex?” he asked.

In the United States today, there are more African American men in prison than in college; half of all those in jail or in prison are African American, though blacks are only 12 percent of the U.S. population, and one in three black men in their twenties is under some form of criminal justice supervision by the state, Bobo said.

“There is no other way to view this than as a form of social removal,” Bobo said. “It borders on the sort of ‘social death’ [Harvard sociologist] Orlando Patterson once characterized as accompanying slavery.”

The Tanner Lectures were established in 1978 by Obert Clark Tanner, an industrialist and legal scholar who studied philosophy at Harvard and Stanford and later served as a member of the Stanford faculty in religious studies. The lectures were presented by the Barbara and Bowen McCoy Program in Ethics in Society and the Office of the President.
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