Black History and Black Identity: A Call for a New Historiography

By W. D. Wright | Go to book overview

Chapter 5

Whites/Europeans and the Origins of the African Identity

It is common to think of the African identity as being indigenous to the continent, having its origins among the millennial black people who have and continue to live there. This is the assumption that Black historians, and other Black intellectuals, for that matter, automatically make. But it is, as it has always been, an erroneous assumption, because the word and identity of African comes from without the continent originally. People outside of Africa, in Europe, Asia, and the Western Hemisphere, for a very lengthy period of time referred to the large island continent as Africa and the people on it as Africans, while most of the black inhabitants were totally ignorant of the two names. Indeed, as strange as it seems, most black Africans did not hear the names and identities of Africa and Africans until after World War II, when they came to them in post-war liberation slogans, such as “Africa for the Africans,” “African Liberation,” “African nationalism,” or “African Unity.” There are black Africans today who accept the name and identity of African for themselves, while many others, perhaps even most black Africans, have not done so, preferring other more meaningful identities for themselves, such as family, clan, tribe, or religious identities, or perhaps a national identity. Those black Africans who have ac-

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