It has recently been suggested by a couple of well known grassroots pundits that Clarence Thomas is the “quintessential black nationalist”.
The only evidence presented of Thomas’s Black Nationalism is that he admired Malcolm X and the teaching of self sufficiency of Black communities. The article starts off mentioning Thomas and his recent vote on the Supreme Court that gutted the 4th Amendment basically making racial profiling by police legal. Considering how every Black nationalist was against the institutional racism of the United States, it is ludicrous to suggest that Thomas who has helped to continue those institutional racist practices, is a Black nationalist and ties his vote to Black Nationalism.
This is in fact a slander of Black Nationalism and the historical icons associated with its formation over the past 150 years in the United States.
If we want to sum up Black Nationalism in a few words, one only needs to pay attention to the words that make up the term. Black Nationalism is Black Nationhood for victims of Americanism as Malcolm X stated when he said, “No, I’m not an American. I’m one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million black people who are the victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy.”
To get an accurate view or understanding of Black Nationalism, we must examine the historical timeline of Black Nationalism in the Western Hemisphere.
To find the roots of Black Nationalism in the United States one has to arguably start with Haiti. The first “Black” nation to proclaim its independence was Haiti on 1 January 1804 by Dessalines, a formerly enslaved African and military genius who studied under the leadership of Toussaint Louverture and continued the revolution to its completion once Louverture was captured by the French.
A case could be made that both Dessalines and Louverture are the Fathers of Black Nationalism in the Western Hemisphere.
Haiti became a nation during the presidency of the immoral racist capitalist enslaver Thomas Jefferson, who along with the US Congress, refused to recognize Haiti as a nation. Haiti would not be recognized by European countries and the United States of America until after the American Civil War but their nationhood inspired one man in particular who would become the first Black commissioned officer in the US military during the American Civil War. That man would become widely known as the Father of Black Nationalism.
Martin Robison Delany was born eight years after Haiti became a Nation. He was born free to a mother who was African royalty but kidnapped and sold into slavery and brought to the United States. She would eventually get her freedom based on her “noble” blood but she never returned to Africa. His father was an enslaved African but Delany was free like his mother. Delany would grow up to become a slavery abolitionist, journalist, physician, and writer, and arguably the first proponent of black nationalism and among the first to call for Black people to migrate to Africa because of his belief that the only way to achieve equality was to separate from the United States because the country would never stop practicing institutional racism.
In 1859 Delany led an emigration commission to West Africa to explore possible sites for a new black nation along the Niger River, “We are a nation within a nation, we must go from our oppressors,” he wrote. Read more.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. is often refered to as a “Black Nationalist” and he was born in Jamaica two years after the death of Delany.
However, Garvey never advocated a return to Africa by Blacks in the United States or Caribbean as mistakenly believed by many. Because of this, it is questionable if he can be considered a true Black Nationalist because he never advocated for Blacks in America to form their own nation. He did preach Black Unity and Co-operative Economics in the countries they resided but that alone does not fit the definition of Black Nationalism.
Garvey’s goals were modern and urban. He sought to end imperialist rule and create modern societies in Africa, not, as his critics charged, to transport blacks ‘back to Africa.’ Read more.
The next notable “Black Nationalist” is Malcolm X although again this is a questionable designation. While he was a member of the Nation of Islam and later founded the Organization for Afro-American Unity, neither of those organizations were Black Nationalists because they did not advocate a return to Africa or the creation of a separate Black nation. The Nation of Islam preached some of the same things as Garvey but like Garvey has not advocated for a true Black nation apart from the United States.
Malcolm X is often referred to as a Black Nationalist because of his work associated with the founding of the Republic of New Afrika. However, like Garvey, he never advocated for the establishment of an independent Black nation. He instead advocated for building bridges of economic and social cooperation between Blacks in the United States and the Caribbean with African nations. That is not Black Nationalism, it is Pan Africanism.
Robert F. Williams was a Black Nationalist in the mold of Martin Robison Delany believing that the United States was forever to be ruled by institutional racism and he advocated for the formation of a Black nation consisting of five southern states and funded with reparations for slavery and Jim Crow and called the Republic of New Afrika..
Robert F. Williams would become the first chairman of the provisional government of the RNA.
The Republic of New Africa (RNA) is a black nationalist organization that was created in 1969 on the premise that an independent black republic should be created out of the southern United States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, which were considered “subjugated lands.”
The group’s manifesto demanded the United States government pay $400 billion in reparations for the injustices of slavery and segregation. It also argued that African-Americans should be allowed to vote on self-determination, as that opportunity was not provided at the end of slavery when the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution incorporated African-Americans into the United States.
The economy of the RNA was to be organized based on ujamaa, Tanzania’s model of cooperative economics and community self-sufficiency. – Read more.
Any Black nationalist that isn’t talking about establishing a nation for the Black victims of America, are not really a Black Nationalist and they are engaging in a faux version of Black Nationalism. Cooperate economics is not Black Nationalism. Black Unity in the face of racist oppression, is not Black Nationalism. Pan Africanism is not Black Nationalism. These are characteristics of Black Nationalism but practicing these things don’t make you a Black Nationalist if your goal is not to establish a separate Black nation independent from the United States. Controlling the economics and politics in your community is not Black nationalism because you community is still governed by the State these communities reside in and of course everyone is still subject to federal law. A nation makes its own laws, rules and regulations and not subject to the approval or authority of Europeans.
Black nationalism has to do with creating an independent Black nation, anything else is a imitation and not the real thing..
Note: This list does not include every Black Nationalist or those thought to be Black Nationalists.