Black History as a Weapon of Intellectual and Political Struggle

By Adams, Dr. Russell L. | Diversity Employers, February 2000 | Go to article overview

Black History as a Weapon of Intellectual and Political Struggle


Adams, Dr. Russell L., Diversity Employers


We have many unprovoked enemies, who begrudge us the liberty we enjoy, and are glad to hear of any complaint against our colour, be it just or unjust; in consequence of which we are more earnestly endeavoring all in our power to warn, rebuke, and exhort our [fellow] African friends, when stigmas or oppression appear pointed at, or attempted against them, unjustly...

Written in 1794 by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, both leaders of Philadelphia's Black community, these words are found in the first known Black history document produced by African Americans. In some 27 pages, these two self-educated men wrote a historical and sociological treatise to counter published stereotypes of Blacks as disease-free exploiters of white Yellow Fever victims in that city's malaria epidemic of 1793. A widely read publication by whites asserted that Blacks were immune to Yellow Fever and guilty of grossly overcharging sick and dying whites for services rendered. By using what we now call history, sociology and statistics, these two men brilliantly demolished the immunity stereotype and the money gouging allegations. Thus from America's beginning, Black history has been used by African Americans as an instrument of truth during periods of heightened racial strife. This article is an outline of Black history as a weapon of intellectual and political struggle from Richard Allen to Carter G. Woodson.

During the decade of the 1820s, free Blacks were first attacked as a group. In 1826, the Blacks of Boston organized the Massachusetts General Colored Association to combat slavery and colorphobia. This group met at the used clothing store of David Walker, who summed up many of their ideas in his 1829 Appeal in Four Articles to the Colored Citizens of the World. Three of Walker's articles were historical accounts of the evolution of Christianity and slavery, with Article II being one of the earliest expressions of historical Afrocentrism as indicated by these words:

I am indeed cheered...when we take a retrospective view of the arts and sciences--the wise legislators--the Pyramids) and other magnificent buildings--the turning of the channel of the river Nile, by the sons of Africa or Ham among whom learning was originated, and carried thence into Greece... .

During the 1829 Depression, working-class whites of Cincinnati attacked Blacks in order to take their jobs. Some 800 of the city's 1,200 African Americans fled to Canada. Clusters of free Blacks throughout the North protested colonization proposals. …

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