Edward Wilmot Blyden

A Short Biography

below is an excerpt of an observation taken from the exhibit on display:

 (3 August 1832 – 7 February 1912), the father of pan-Africanism, was an educator, writer, diplomat, and politician primarily in Liberia. Born in the West Indies, he joined the free black immigrants to the region from the United States; he also taught for five years in the British West African colony of Sierra Leone in the early 20th century. His writings on pan-Africanism were influential in both colonies, which were started during the slavery years for the resettlement of free blacks from the United States and Great Britain. His writings attracted attention in the sponsoring countries as well. He felt that Zionism was a model for what he called Ethiopianism, and that African Americans could return to Africa and redeem it. He believed political independence to be a prerequisite for economic independence, and argued that Africans must counter the neocolonial policies of former colonial forces.

Blyden was recognised in his youth for his talents and drive; he was educated and mentored by John Knox, an American Protestant minister in St Thomas, Danish West Indies, who encouraged him to continue his education in the United States. Blyden was refused admission in 1850 to three Northern theological seminaries, including Rutgers’ Theological College in New Jersey, because of his race. Knox encouraged him to go to Liberia, the colony set up for freedmen by the American Colonization Society; Blyden emigrated that year, in 1850, and made his career and life there. He married into a prominent family and soon started working as a journalist.

As a writer, Blyden is regarded widely as the "father of Pan-Africanism" and is noted as one of the first people to articulate a notion of "African Personality" and the uniqueness of "African race". His ideas have influenced many twentieth century figures including Marcus Garvey, George Padmore and Kwame Nkrumah. His major work, Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race (1887), promoted the idea that practising Islam was more unifying and fulfilling for Africans than Christianity. He argues that the latter was introduced chiefly by European colonizers. He believed it had a demoralising effect, although he continued to be a Christian. He thought Islam was more authentically African, as it had been brought to sub-Saharan areas by people from North Africa.


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