As a freedom fighter who promotes the importance of social entrepreneurship and critical thinking, it has come to my attention that many young black men and women living in America are limited in their knowledge of the struggles of their forefathers, whom fought, and put their lives on the line, for freedom and liberation. I am inspired to write a literary work, which provides information about organizations and individuals often overlooked, despite their struggles and contribution towards the fight for liberation and freedom for blacks living in America. As a child, I remember being lectured to about America’s revolutionary war and about the great men who were brave enough to stand up to England. I was told that men like George Washington and many ordinary colonialists took a stand against their oppressors, and were willing to put their lives on the line for freedom, equality and liberty. I was told that the American flag was something to be proud of.
There’s only one problem, I’m a black man living in America, so that history does not resonate to my full understanding of the term “freedom”. Indeed, the American revolution was very real, and many heroic figures, and a wealthy and very powerful nation proceeded from that moment, but the information that was lectured to me seemed to be limited in it’s spectrum of Americas history, mainly due to the lack of information expanding on blacks personal struggles, contribution, and our attempt at revolution for our freedom and liberty in the nation known as, “The United States of America.” Every year come February, the ritual is to show a video of Rev. Martin Luther Kings Jr. “I have a dream ‘ speech, and then debate about the importance or the need of black history month. Am I right? Instead of focusing on the oppression that blacks have experienced in America, I would like to introduce a few new individuals whom I label as freedom fighters, and I would also like to elaborate on some of the many important organizations, which were vital and effective in the fight for black liberation in America.
Prince Hall (1735-1807) was one of the early blacks speaking on behalf of black equality, and promoting a “back to Africa movement,” way before Marcus Garvey. He’s the founder of the African Lodge of the Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons of Boston, which is the world's first lodge of black Freemasonry. Despite his efforts in America, Hall also gave recognition to the black revolutionaries in the Haitian Revolution.
Nathaniel “Nat” Turner (1800 – 1831) led a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831 that resulted in over 100 blacks, and at least 60 white deaths. Turner was put to death, and the blacks that were accused of being part of Turner's slave rebellion were put to death as well. History also has it that two hundred blacks were also beaten and killed by whites, in response to the rebellion. When people talk of revolution, the saying is, “one most be able to put their life on the line to fight for freedom, just as the colonialist and some of the forefathers of America had done”, so many have embraced the bravery of Turners and celebrate his attempt for freedom and liberation. Of course there are others who look at him as a controversial or disturbing figure.
Martin Robison Delany (1812–1885) is known as the father of “American Black Nationalism.” He was also a journalist (Worked with Frederick Douglass on the North Star), abolitionist, physician, and writer. After being one of the first blacks admitted to Harvard Medical School, he became the first African-American field officer in the United States Army during the American Civil War. In 1859 Delany visited Liberia (West Africa), to negotiate the possibility of a new black nation in the area. History has it that an agreement was signed with eight chiefs in the Abeokuta region that would permit black American settlers to live on unused land. The same quest Marcus Garvey would later pursue. Unfortunately, the treaty was eventually disregarded due to warfare in the region. It was obviously opposed by many white missionaries and the American Civil War was also a major set back. One of his well-known works is “The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States”
Henry Highland Garnet (1815-1852) is the founder of the “African Civilization Society”, promoted the idea of the, go back to Africa movement, with the idea of starting a western colony in the country now known as, Nigeria. He was one of the first to advocate for black colonies in the America. History has it that he was also outspoken about the emigration of blacks to Liberia (West Africa), Mexico, and the West Indies. While being one of the first aggressive voices pushing an anti slavery agenda, he presented the literary work in the link below called, “The Past and the Present Condition, and the Destiny, of the Colored Race” in 1848.
Harriet Tubman (1820-1913) is known for her courage and bravery for escaping from slavery, and for later going back to free over 60 other slaves, using a secret network of safe houses, now known as the, “Underground Railroad.” In her later years Tubman was an advocate for women’s suffrage and history has it that she recruited men for abolitionist, John Browns, raid on Harper Ferry, a failed initiative to spark a slave up rise throughout the south. Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman: Electronic Edition Here:
Edward Wilmot Blyden (1832-1912) is regarded as the “Father of “Pan-Africanism”. Blyden served as an ambassador for Liberia (West Africa) and traveled to the United States promoting to blacks in America the idea of blacks moving back to Africa to help develop it. One of his major literary works (1887) is titled, “Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race”, hinted on the idea that practicing Islam would unite and encourage Africans much more than Christianity.
Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was an author, educator, motivational speaker, and an advocate for blacks living in America. History has it that in 1895, Washington spoke at the “Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta”, where he publicly accepted disfranchisement and social segregation, as long as whites would allow black economic progress, fair court justice, and equal educational opportunity. This is known as, “The Atlanta Compromise”. Despite the fact he received criticism for not advocating for more inclusion, Wikipedia, states, “His work greatly helped blacks to achieve higher education, financial power and understanding of the U.S. legal system. This contributed to blacks' attaining the skills to create and support the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, leading to the passage of important federal civil rights laws.” Washington “Tuskegee Normal And Industrial Institute” successfully provided education for black students. Washington’s’, “Up from Slavery” was the most popular autobiography of a black person living in America until the autobiography of Malcolm X.
W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) was one of the early leaders of the Niagara Movement, now known as the NAACP. He and his supporters opposed the “Atlanta Compromise” of Booker T Washington. They were advocates for full civil rights and pushed for elevated political representation. Du Bois promoted the concept of the “Talented Tenth”, which sought to create an atmosphere for one in ten black men becoming leaders of their race, and throughout the world, through methods expanding education, promoting the ideas of others to become directly involved in social change, and by encouraging the writing of books. He strongly believed that blacks needed a classical education to be able to reach their potential, the direct opposite of the industrial education promoted by Booker T Washington. He believed that capitalism was the primary cause of racism and promoted socialist ideals. Du Bois is the author of the book, “The Black Reconstruction of America.” “Wikipedia reference to the book is that, “It is revisionist approach to looking at the Reconstruction of the south after its defeat in the American Civil War. On the whole, the book takes an economic approach to looking at reconstruction. The essential argument of the text is that the Black and White laborers were divided after the civil war on the lines of race, and as such were unable to stand together against the white propertied class. This to Du Bois was the failure of reconstruction and the reason for the rise of the Jim Crow laws, and other such injustices.”
Henry Sylvester Williams (1869-1911) is known for forming the African Association, now known as the “Pan-African Association.” Pan-Africanism sought African unity as a continent and as a people. This was backed with the promotion of historical and cultural awareness, nationalism, independence, and economic and political cooperation. Williams stated, "the time has come when the voice of Black men should be heard independently in their own affairs." As a writer, Trinidadian lawyer, and councilor, he was an outspoken advocate against racism, imperialism, and was for promoting accurate information to all matters involving individuals of African decent.
Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) “and his organization, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), represent the largest mass movement for blacks in American history. Proclaiming a black nationalist "Back to Africa" message, Garvey and the UNIA established 700 branches in thirty-eight states by the early 1920s. While chapters existed in the larger urban areas such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, Garvey's message reached into small towns across the country as well. Later groups such as Father Divine's Universal Peace Mission Movement and the Nation of Islam drew members and philosophy from Garvey's organization, and the UNIA's appeal and influence were felt not only in America, but in Canada, the Caribbean, and throughout Africa.” By David Van Leeuwen. Marcus Garvey promoted a Pan-African philosophy, which resulted in a global movement. It also promoted economic empowerment among blacks and the movement became known as Garveyism. History has it that the intent of the movement was for those of African ancestry to "redeem" Africa and for the European colonial powers to leave it. The UNIA, as an organization, and Garveyism, as a movement, would eventually inspire the Rastaafari movement.
Read the Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey
Elijah Muhammad (1897-1975) was the spiritual leader of the “Nation of Islam.” Along with teaching spiritual lessons and self/race pride, he promoted economic empowerment to blacks living in America. The Nation of Islam created black owned barbershops, bakeries, grocery stores, coffee shops, laundry halls, retail stores, real estate holdings, owned farm land in several states, and had multiple schools across the United States. He also used the Nation of Islam to inspire many black men and women to give up alcoholism, gambling, and other forms of delinquent or criminal behavior.
Free online books written by Elijah Muhammad
Teachings of Elijah Muhammad
C.L.R. James (1901-1989) was a journalist, socialist theorist. His works dealing with Caribbean and Afro-nationalism were influential and his writings on the Communist International stirred debates in many circles. His works on the “Haitian Revolution” and “The Black Jacobins, are staple literature of the African Diaspora.
George Padmore (1903-1959) was a socialist and writer who promoted Pan-Africanism and African independence. He used publishing as a strategy for political change. Padmore organized the 1945 Manchester Conference, attended by W.E.B. Du Bois. The Manchester Conference helped set the agenda for decolonization in the post-war period. He was known for networking and sending articles to newspapers across the world, while maintaining contact with both W. E. B. Du Bois and novelist Richard Wright. History has it that Padmore urged Wright to write the book “Black Power” (1954).
Malcolm X (1925-1965) was a Muslim minister and a human rights activist. After leaving the Nation of Islam, he formed the Organization of Afro-American Unity. He was open to work alongside civil rights leaders, but he felt civil rights needed to change it’s’ focus to human rights to become an international issue. He wanted to bring the complaints of blacks living in America to the United Nations to gain support from emerging nations. He was an advocate for Black Nationalism and self-determination for black communities. Malcolm X saw a direct connection between the domestic struggles of blacks in America for equal rights with the liberation struggles in third world nations. He felt that blacks were a majority and not a minority in a global context and he criticized capitalism. He advocated for people to defend themselves from aggressors, and to secure freedom, justice and equality by whatever means necessary if the government was not willing to protect them.
Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was a Christian minister and a civil rights leader who sought equality for blacks living in America. He co founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, serving as its’ first president. He received the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent approach in dealing with racial inequality through. He was the head figure in the “March on Washington” where he delivered the famous, “I have a Dream” speech. King and the SCLC organized peaceful marches, which expanded his focus to speak out against poverty and the Vietnam War. History has it that his stance against the Vietnam War, and a speech titled, speech titled "Beyond Vietnam", alienated many of his liberal allies. Before his death, King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., called “The Poor Peoples Campaign” to alleviate poverty regardless of race, economic justice, and promoting the idea that idea that all people should have what they need to live. MLK"S Philosophy
The video attached to this article is an interview with Bobby Seale, one of the Co founders of the Black Panther Party For Self Defense. In my next article, 1up Black History of Freedom Fighters Part II, I will focus on the objectives, codes, and disciplines of several of the organizations, which should be recognized for their efforts in the fight for Black Liberation in America, and, all over the world. Individuals like Ralph Albernathy, Ella Baker, Huey Newton, Fred Hampton, Eldridge Cleaver, Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, Stokely Carmichael, Geronimo Pratt, Assata Shakur, Mutulu Shakur, and Omali Yeshitela, are not highlighted in this work, but they, and so many others, were and still are founders, and the current backbone of several of the organizations, which I will be presenting in part II of this article. Feel free to contact me at @Staryor@gmail.com, on Facebook or Twitter, if you have any questions.