Unlike the overwhelming majority of American immigrants, most African-Americans do not descend from ancestors who chose to live in the United States of America. Instead, they were forced here during the trans-Atlantic trade.
In countless documented and undocumented cases of escape and revolt, Africans, on the ships of the Middle Passage to the plantations of the American South, have always yearned for a better, safer, more loving place to call home. In fact, Albert Raboteau, in his seminal scholarly work, “Slave Religion,” made clear that the early plantation gravitation toward Christianity had a great deal to do with the belief in the existence of an eventual heavenly home.
In 1811, Paul Cuffee, a free Black businessman and abolitionist from Massachusetts, traveled to Sierra Leone to help establish what he hoped would be a successful community for Africans in America to eventually call home. As early as 1820, the American Colonization Society began working with free African-Americans who desired to return home to their ancestral continent. Over 13,000 returned.
Even as slavery ended, African-Americans soon found one horror replaced with another. Racial violence, lynching, overt discrimination, and systemic inequity plagued black America so severely in the early 20th century that the call to go back to Africa, from Marcus Garvey and so many others, became more popular than ever.
Even though this call wasn’t practical or even possible for most, it revealed something heartbreaking — a deep desire to finally choose a homeland that did not seem so hellbent on harming and rejecting black folk en masse.
After the passing of Marcus Garvey, the call for blacks to separate or to leave America took on several iterations. But the primary focus of prominent black leaders and movements became how to make this country work for people of color. In countless ways, many of the earliest goals of the Civil Rights Movement on voting and segregation were achieved, but what was left, what we have now over 50 years after the March on Washington, is uniquely troubling unto itself.
More unarmed African-Americans have already been killed by police in 2015 than were lynched in any year since the 1920s. The state-sponsored violence being suffered by young black swimmers in McKinney, Texas, a 12-year-old black girl manhandled by police at a swimming pool in Fairfield, Ohio, an outrageous arrest of Sandra Bland in Hempstead, Texas, the outrageous police assault of a young black girl at Spring Valley High School, and so many more instances have truly rubbed African-Americans raw.
Source: New York Daily News | Shaun King