The year 1995 marks the 163rd anniversary of the birth of Edward Wilmot Blyden. This exhibit is a celebration of this event by his descendants, and is dedicated to the African Diaspora and its friends. The work of Edward Blyden relating to Pan Africanism and the African American are summarized here against a panorama of the second half of the 19th century. The term Pan-Africanism was not coined before Blyden's death in 1912, but a review of his life's work reveals that he had the greatest influence on the creation of the ideas which we now associate with historical Pan Africanism. In the introduction to Blyden's book West Africa Before Europe Casely Hayford (1866-1930), a renowned Ghanaian jurist and statesman, summarizes why Blyden's contribution is unique:
"The claim of Edward Wilmot Blyden to the esteem and regard of all thinking Africans rests not so much upon the special work he has done for any particular people of the African race, as upon the general work he has done for the race as a whole.
The work of men like Booker T. Washington and W.E. Burghart Du Bois is exclusive and provincial in a sense. The work of Edward Wilmot Blyden is universal, covering the entire race and the entire race problem.
What do I mean? I mean this, that while Booker T. Washington seeks to promote the material advancement of the black man in the United States, and W.E. Burghart Du Bois his social enfranchisement amid surroundings and in an atmosphere uncongenial to racial development, Edward Wilmot Blyden has sought for more than a quarter of a century to reveal everywhere the African unto himself; to fix his attention upon original ideas and conceptions as to his place in the economy of the world; to point out to him his work as a race among the races of men; lastly and most important of all, to lead back unto self-respect. He has been the voice of one crying in the wilderness all these years, calling upon all thinking Africans to go back to the rock from whence they were hewn by the common Father of the nations-- to drop a metaphor, to learn to unlearn all that foreign sophistry has encrusted upon the intelligence of the African"
Edward Blyden's life is a constant source of new perspectives even long after his death. An important lesson in his biography is that it reveals both a vision of Africa and the personal struggle by which that vision came about. Few men of his era were able to "learn to unlearn" the complex of European constructions and misconstructions of the meaning of Africa. The same challenges that motivated Blyden to champion the African contribution to humanity are still with us today. Many of his observations are surprisingly fresh and painfully relevant. Blyden was a prolific writer of letters, and published many articles, sermons, poems and books that make up an extensive legacy to the human race. We hope this small offering encourages you to 'explore' his legacy which can be found in dozens of libraries and museums around the world - you will also find it in the oral history of the people of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, the Virgin Islands and the United States. We hope that you will respond with comments and information about what you find-- it will help us in the further development of this Virtual Museum of the Life and Work of Edward Wilmot Blyden
"Edward Wilmot Blyden and Africanism in America"
by Eluemuno R. Blyden
"The Elements of Permanent Influence"
Full text of a sermon by EWB given in 1890 at Washington, DC
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Copyright 1995 Eluemuno-Chukuemeka R. Blyden