Some Thoughts on Black Nationalism(s) in the African Diaspora

“I know no national boundary where the Negro is concerned. The whole world is my province until Africa is free.”

Marcus Garvey

What is Black Nationalism?

Black nationalism cannot simply be summed up as Black Separatism. The solidarity that Black Nationalism is predicated upon would have to go beyond nationalism, genetics, skin color or socio-economic status.  If we are to treat anti-Black racism as “enemy”, we have to name it, identify it, address it’s manifestations directly.

It is also worth considering whether Black Nationalism(s) borrows from “western” nationalisms & whether this is problematic.  I read Partha Chatterjee’s Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World– he points out the paradox of post-colonial nationalisms.  Essentially Chatterjee says this appropriation of alien ideas serves to facilitate a rejection of “the alien intruder and dominator.”  This, then makes it necessary to answer the question of whether all/some Black Nationalism(s) are borrowed forms.

From what he wrote, it is evident that Paul Robeson wrestled with the dilemma of an imported nationalism that Partha Chatterjee dealt with; whether or not the nationalism Paul Robeson was heir to reflected Western norms and understandings.11  Chatterjee suggests that nationalism is a European import, and for a colonized people to subscribe to nationalism is to accept the both the standard of progress and notions of superiority and inferiority that are based upon that of the great European powers. Individuals like Robeson also had to consider whether to accept the model set forth by European thinkers.  The paradox lies in the fact that this appropriation of alien ideas serves to facilitate a rejection of “the alien intruder and dominator.”12 Paul Robeson resolves this paradox by advocating African- Americans’ mastery of ‘European machines’ while retaining the distinctiveness of their culture. [excerpted from: The Dilemma of Nationalism: Another Excerpt from My Thesis ]

When I think of #BlkNat, I typically think of social/economic empowerment w/n the African Diaspora & the continent of Africa.  This empowerment manifests in: national sovereignty, economic autonomy, infrastructure investments- not mythologies.  Of course, we cannot confuse Black Nationalism with ethnocentrism. The (Africa)n Diaspora is variegated & cannot be essentialised.  I’m not at all interested in imagined communities when it comes to Black Nationalism. Give me concrete nations/people! I’m inclined to look for anti-(neo)-colonialist, anti-capitalist alternatives to the current extraction economies in Africa, the Caribbeans, and even in Central and South America.

I see Black Nationalism manifesting at all levels, from grassroots activism (Freedom Schools, Mentorship networks) to gov’t (fiscal policy, trade).  On a grassroots level, I see the necessity of building up (African-descended) children of all nationalities w/n homes, schools, etc.  Within the agricultural sector, I see greater support for Black farmers in Jamaica, Haiti, USA, Ghana, Virgin Islands, et al.  Supporting farmers would mean less dependence on single-yield, GMOs & greater cultivation of indigenous crops- w/ gov’t subsidies.  It also means greater ownership of farmland. E.G. In the US, most Black farmers rent/lease the land they cultivate.

Within churches/mosques/ other religious institutions, I envision inclusive and empowering liberation theology that fosters community.  Liberation theology that emphasizes our interdependence & the importance of intergenerational bonds. We could learn so much!  I’m remembering Black Churches during Reconstruction & how they provided life insurance, health insurance, job insurance to working-class Blacks who would not have had access to any of these services otherwise.

I’m uncomfortable w/ the notion of the DuBois’ Talented 10th b/c it strikes me as classist. He came from a place of privilege.  However, I still admire works, experiences and insights of W.E.B. DuBois. He wasn’t just talking about imagined communities. Yes, I agree that socially mobile Black folk (Talented 10th) do have a level of responsibility to the advancement of the collective.  But I refuse to believe that advancement occurs on a trickle-down basis. I’m more likely to advocate grassroots mobilization.  [See also:]

The Gendered Nature of (Black) Nationalism

Has anyone specifically addressed the gendered nature of nationalism?  The root word for “Father” and “Country” is patria. This is the same root word for Patriarchy. For example Martin Delany’s views on women’s education were that women were only to be educated insofar as their roles- mother, educator of the next generation- required.  Even within the BPP, the treatment of women necessitated the 8 Points of Attention- one being “Do Not Take Liberties w/ Women.” I’ll point all of you to the stories of Elaine Brown & Regina Davis as examples of sexism undermining #BlkNat w/n the Black Panther Party. [See: A Comment on The Black Panthers & Gendered Nationalism ]

Within the Nation of Islam, a particular brand of Black manhood was strongly associated with separatism, economic nationalism.  Similarly, the loss of Black manhood was attributed in part to integration- which was portrayed as a wanton, but deadly white woman. [118-9, Black Muslim Religion in the Nation of Islam: 1960-1975, Edward E Curtis IV] Additionally, the blame for the failure of Black economic nationalism was placed squarely upon weak Black men- as well the failure to protect Black women from sexual abuse at the hands of White men.

In his May 22, 1962 speech “Who Taught You To Hate Yourself?” Malcolm X makes an appeal to Black (heterosexual) masculinity, stating that:

“The only time a Muslim gets really violent is when somebody goes to molest his woman.  We will kill you for our woman… We believe that if the white man will do whatever is necessary to see that his woman is respected and protected, then you and I will never be respected as men until we stand uo like men and place the same penalty over the head of anyone who puts his filthy hands [sic] in the direction of our women… “

Now, Malcolm’s words “the most disrespected person in America is the Black woman” have been proven many times over- even and especially from within.  The policing of Black women’s sexuality and reproduction- particularly accusations of genocide levied against Black women who had abortions is a heinous example of this.

In light of the history of forced sterilization of Black women, the NOI wanted to prevent women from getting tubal ligations and instead opt for less permanent forms of birth control.  By and large, birth control was seen as a form of genocide and rejected by the Nation of Islam.  The notion was that large Black families would serve as a challenge to White racism.

The Problematic of Black (American) Nationalism

By 2012, African-American buying power is projected to top 1.1 Trllion USD. How can African-Americans be more than consumers?  I point out African-Americans’ buying power b/c I want to make a clear distinction btwn money & actual wealth.  One of the way to accumulate tangible wealth is land ownership.  However, if land ownership is the basis of Black Nationalist claims and said land was stolen from the indigenous inhabitants of the land, it is reasonable to conclude that it is problematic. In addition to this, Black Americans’ citizenship affords them greater privilege and mobility across international borders than most of their counterparts in the rest of the African diaspora.  This may change as the United States’ era of primacy is at it’s end in the face of untenavle proxy, imperialist wars, a crumbling reputation and a debt equivalent to 97% of its Gross Domestic Product.

How do we adapt Black Nationalism(s) to an increasingly globalized world?

I’ll leave this open.

Related Blog Posts:

  1. An Excerpt of My Thesis: Dissident Americanism and (Black) Double-Consciousness
  2. Happy 85th Birthday, Malcolm X [a.k.a. El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz]
  3. A Comment on The Black Panthers & Gendered Nationalism
  4. A Brief Overview of Apartheid in South Africa
  5. The Problematic and Thematic of Nationalism in the Post-Colonial Context: Possibilities, Limitations and Emancipation
  6. On Nationalism and Decolonization: Excerpts From 3 Independence Speeches


Toussaint-L’Ouverture (May 20, 1743 – April 6, 1803)

  • Toussaint L’Ouverture – The Haitian Revolution (New York: Verso, 2008). A collection of L’Ouverture’s writings and speeches, with an introduction by Jean-Bertrand AristideISBN 1844672611

Paul Cuffe, (January 17, 1759 – September 9, 1817)

“Cuffee, Paul”, Library of Congress, Silhouette. Facts On File, Inc. African-American History Online.

Maria Stewart (née Miller),(1803 – December 17, 1879)

  • Meditations from the pen of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart: presented to the First African Baptist Church and Society, in the city of Boston. Boston: Printed by Garrison and Knapp, 1832.
  • A lecture at the Franklin Hall, Boston, September 21, 1832. Reprinted in: Dorothy Porter, ed. Early Negro writing, 1760-1837. Black Classic Press, 1995; p.136+
  • An address delivered at the African Masonic Hall, Boston, February 27, 1833. Reprinted in: Dorothy Porter, ed. Early Negro writing, 1760-1837. Black Classic Press, 1995; p.129+

Martin Delany, (May 6, 1812 – January 24, 1885)

See the bibliography, “Martin Delany’s Writings”, West Virginia University Library, online.

Henry Highland Garnet,(December 23, 1815 – February 13, 1882)

Henry McNeal Turner, (February 1, 1833–1915)

(He was one of the first to preach that God is Black in the early 1880s)

We have as much right biblically and otherwise to believe that God is a Negroe, as you buckra or white people have to believe that God is a fine looking, symmetrical and ornamented white man. For the bulk of you and all the fool Negroes of the country believe that God is white-skinned, blue eyed, straight-haired, projected nosed, compressed lipped and finely robed white gentleman, sitting upon a throne somewhere in the heavens. Every race of people who have attempted to describe their God by words, or by paintings, or by carvings, or any other form or figure, have conveyed the idea that the God who made them and shaped their destinies was symbolized in themselves, and why should not the Negroe believe that he resembles God.”

W.E.B. DuBois, (February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963)

  • Africa, Its Geography, People and Products (1930)
  • Africa: Its Place in Modern History (1930)
  • Africa in Battle Against Colonialism, Racialism, Imperialism (1960)
  • The World and Africa, an Inquiry into the Part Which Africa Has Played in World History (1965)

Marcus Garvey,(17 August 1887 – 10 June 1940)

  • The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey. Edited by Amy Jacques Garvey. 412 pages. Majority Press; Centennial edition, 1 November 1986. ISBN 0-912469-24-2. Avery edition. ISBN 0-405-01873-8.
  • Message to the People: The Course of African Philosophy by Marcus Garvey. Edited by Tony Martin. Foreword by Hon. Charles L. James, president- general,Universal Negro Improvement Association. 212 pages. Majority Press, 1 March 1986. ISBN 0-912469-19-6.
  • The Poetical Works of Marcus Garvey. Compiled and edited by Tony Martin. 123 pages. Majority Press, 1 June 1983. ISBN 0-912469-02-1.
  • Hill, Robert A., editor. The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers. Vols. I-VII, IX. University of California Press, ca. 1983- (ongoing). 1146 pages. University of California Press, 1 May 1991. ISBN 0-520-07208-1.
  • Hill, Robert A., editor. The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers: Africa for the Africans 1921-1922. 740 pages. University of California Press, 1 February 1996. ISBN 0-520-20211-2.

Kwame Nkrumah, (21 September 1909 – 27 April 1972)

Frantz Fanon,(July 20, 1925 – December 6, 1961)

Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Robert Poole; October 7, 1897 — February 25, 1975)

  1. “Elijah Muhammad Dead; Black Muslim Leader, 77”The New York Times.
  2. [d MALCOLM X: I Have No Fear Whatsoever of Anybody or Anything
  3. E. U. Essien-UdomBlack Nationalism, University of Chicago Press 1962
  4. Richard Brent Turner, Islam in the African-American Experience, University of Indiana Press 1997
  5. Black Muslim Religion in the Nation of Islam: 1960-1975, Edward E Curtis IV


  • Haiti
  • Jamaica
  • Liberia
  • Sierra Leone
  • Ghana
  • Zimbabwe
  • The Congo
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Ethiopia


Filed under "Blackness", Africa, African Diaspora, African-American History, Capitalism, Class, Colonialism, Critical Theory, Culture, Economics, Ethics, Feminism, First Nations, Gender, History, Human Rights, North America, Philosophy, Popular Culture, Post-Colonialism, Race, Social Justice, Subaltern Studies, The Continent of Africa, The United States of America, Theology, Womanism

5 responses to “Some Thoughts on Black Nationalism(s) in the African Diaspora

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Some Thoughts on Black Nationalism(s) in the African Diaspora « Defying History: Christian and Womanist Perspectives --

  2. I believe that your info is very enlightening to those blacks who have decided to put in the back of their minds the wrongs and hardships that we have encounterd as a race of people. It makes me proud to be black when I can read commentary based off of true black history , and I am hoping that my blog will be just as enlightening as yours.

  3. arieswym

    I love that you used the word “variegated” in your post. It’s a word that I rarely see outside of my GRE studying

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