Saturday, December 29, 2007


BACK TO AFRICA MOVEMENTS "Back to Africa" movements within the African American community in the United States have existed in various forms and at various times from the early eighteenth century to the present day. According to historian John Hope Franklin, the earliest scheme for the resettlement of American blacks in Africa was sponsored by a New Jersey resident in 1714. During the remainder of the eighteenth century and throughout most of the nineteenth century, a number of "resettlement" or "colonization" plans were proposed and/or undertaken. The American Colonization Society, for example, "repatriated" approximately 12,000 African Americans to Liberia between 1822 and the beginning of the American Civil War. The overwhelming majority of these early "Back to Africa" movements were sponsored by white Americans whose attitudes fluctuated between genuine humanitarian guilt feelings about unconcealed racism, and a desire for absolute racial separation. Similarly, black attitudes toward these early colonization ven­tures varied from extreme enthusiasm and anticipation (from slaves) to apathy and outright rejection (from free blacks).

Modern "repatriation" schemes, such as Marcus Garvey's Black Zionist movement during the early twentieth century, have been sponsored by blacks whose motivations have varied from es­capism to idealism to a genuine search for identity. A contem­porary African news-journal, for example, has estimated that approximately two thousand black Americans are currently in Africa "seeking their roots." The extent of their success in finding these roots, of course, will vary from individual to indi­vidual. No absolute consensus exists among those African Amer­icans who have already made the trek to their ancestral home­land and then returned to the United States. Many have re­turned disillusioned, while others sing the praises of "the Jordan over the sea."

Most black Americans, of course, have no intention of "return­ing" to Africa. As literary critic Harold Cruse has pointed out, the Afro-American "is wedded to America and does not want to return to his ancestral Africa except in fancy, per­haps." Cruse maintains that "three hundred years of rearing in the United States has separated us from Africa in ways more insurmountable, culturally speaking, than time gaps of centuries, if the present attitudes of our Afro-American intellectuals and artists are any indication. It must be clearly understood that our racial and cultural experience as a group is distinctly American."

For additional information concerning "Back to Africa" movements, see: AMERICAN COLONIZA­TION SOCIETY, MARCUS GARVEY, and BLACK MUSLIMS.

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