Blyden's Legacy to Pan-Africanism

Blyden's idea's and speeches urging a return to Africa and the re-creation of an African Nation were to seed African conciousness movements all over the world. There is an unbroken line of black leaders that inherited his ideas, directly or indirectly. W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey exploded them into the twentieth century, continuing to champion the theme of a return to Africa. Their political ideas in turn became a source for the leaders of African independence movements of the fifties and sixties- Nkrumah, Nyerere, Sekou Toure and Blyden's own grandson, Edward W. Blyden III whose Sierra Leone Independence Movement (SLIM) played a key role in winning Sierra Leone's independence from Great Britain.

By the time of official desegregation in America, the general trend of African-American political thought had focussed on the attainment of equality of opportunity within American society. Despite the triumphs of the Civil Rights Movement and the nominally 'equal' society it created, the status of Africa continues to haunt black America. The Muslim Movement in the US has been an important force in keeping Blyden's legacy alive. His comparisons of the impacts of different religions on the African way of life in "Christianity Islam and the Negro Race" continue to have a controversial impact on African American religious thought.

Events in the "Post-Soul" era bear witness to a frustration of the efforts of African-Americans to control their destinies in an economically segregated society. Blyden's vision of the future of the African in US society is still painfully relevant. In this context, the most important aspect of his analysis -- the linkage between the economic and political success of Black Africa and the progress of the Black man in America (or anywhere else for that matter) is at a critical juncture. In a quest for a reconstruction of world history in which the role of Africans is less distorted, black historians are again following Blyden's hundred-year-old footsteps to Egypt and Palestine. The Rastafarian movement of the seventies, rising to international prominence through the songs of Robert Nestor "Bob" Marley, re-echoed Blyden's cries for a return to Ethiopia. Reprints of a growing number of Blyden's books and pamphlets can be bought all over America-- on the streets of New York, small bookshops in Texas and even by mail order.

We are in a period of geo-political chaos similar to that of a century ago, the time of the "scramble for Africa" and the subsequent plunder of her human and material resources. It is an important moment for re-appraisal of the Pan-African concept; what it is, it's goals and the route to its effective realization in a new world order. The meaning of Africa is slowly re-emerging as the old racist debates about the origin of human and human civilization are put to death by science. The greatest wealth of humankind- the history of "Homo"s million-year struggle to earn the postfix of "sapiens" --the wise one-- has been guarded by Africa. Africa is the "deep" history of mankind, a history that is irreplaceable. This precious history belongs to all of humanity, but it is the language of the Twa, or the art of the Ewe-- the myths of the Dogon or the rituals of an Isangoma. It is our very physical makeup, our genetic diversity, the diseases that afflict us, our relationship to time. It is our societies, the way they are organized and the shared heritage in all of them that makes a return to Pan-Africanism inevitable.

Africa is not just about the past-- it contains the solutions to the ideological crisis of our industrialized world. There is a second scramble for Africa going on, not for material wealth (though that still continues) but for our culture and way of life, our understanding of the environment, our spirituality. On urban frontlines all over the world:- in America, Europe and Africa itself, Africans must awake to the realization that our disintegrating culture is the key to the future of the whole world. All Africans must at the deepest possible level, seek out, regain, rejuvenate, re-create and re-live African lives and customs. It is not, as some might think, a return to the past, it is a return to the wholistic future of humankind. In the words of Edward Wilmot Blyden :

"Africa will furnish a development of civilization which the world has never yet witnessed. Its great peculiarity will be its mortal element."

Return to Top Page

Copyright 1995 Eluemuno-Chukuemeka R. Blyden