The Great divide Among People of African Descent

Written by Saye Menlekeh Taryor (Brother Saye)

This division can also be seen among people of African descent all across the globe. The best way to put a magnifying glass on this subject is to examine previous conflicts and divisions. Let’s examine the relationship between two prominent leaders of their day. Marcus Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, a man who orchestrated the largest and most productive Pan African movement, even to this day, and W. E. B. Du Bois, one of the founders of the NAACP, and a beloved figure in the Pan African school of thought. This is a perfect case study for the division we see among Africans that continues even today. Before I explain this conflict, let me introduce the key players involved in this conflict with a brief description.

· Marcus Garvey

· W. E. B. Du Bois

· Charles D. B. King and the Liberian government

· The American government and European colonial powers

· Firestone

During the early 1900’s, Marcus Garvey promoted the idea that people of African descent should be embracing the continent of Africa as their homeland. During this time, Garvey was currently promoting self-pride and the importance of establishing sound functioning economic black communities all throughout the world. For critics who say he wanted to establish segregated communities, the problem with that is that segregated communities had already been established, accepted, and enforced by the dominant society. Marcus Garvey understood that blacks were the spenders of their communities, and not enough were providing merchandise, resources and the services. In other words, money was leaving the community and not circulating back into the community. Garvey made sure to educate his followers that when one lives in a segregated community, in order for their community to flourish, money has to circulate within their community instead of going directly to the communities of others, only to stalemate. With that in mind, Garvey invested in a black owned manufacturing company, national newspaper, community grocery stores, restaurants, and a black owned international shipping company.

Now that you have a brief idea regarding the significance Marcus Garvey, let’s address the conflict. Garvey coined the phrase, “Africa for Africans” and organized a team of professionals, to discuss a future settlement agreement with the Liberia government, in hopes of someday turning Liberia into a capital nation, of a future United Nations of Africa. These professionals had discussions with President Charles D. B. King and the Liberian government, regarding building settlements in Liberia. Several sources confirm that the Charles D. B. King and the Liberian government promised Garvey one million acres of land for settlement. Garvey’s dream of building a self-served economic stronghold among Africans and people of Africans descendants, on the continent of Africa, was and still is exactly what the continent of African needs. The website “The Slave Rebellion” provides a breakdown of the Garvey’s proposed plan for resettlement work in Liberia. It mentions that the work was published in a full page advertisement which appeared in the New York World newspaper on Wednesday, June 25 of 1924.

Building Plans

ü Government

üCourt House and Post Office

ü Town Hall

Public safety

ü Police Station

ü Fire Protection


Community Interest and Entertainment

ü National Theater

ü Churches (2)

ü Large Public Hall

ü Public Parks

Public Education

ü Public Library

ü Public Schools (2)

ü Public High School (1)

ü Colleges of Arts and Sciences

ü Trade School and Engineering Works

Public Utilities

ü Electric Light and Power Plant

ü Water filtration Pant

ü Sewerage system and Sewage Disposal Plant

ü Transportation Facilities

ü Roads, Streets and Pavements

ü Wharf and dock and Water Front Improvement

ü Railroad, 4-15 miles

ü Commissaries (2)

ü Dormitories (2)

“Garvey proposed sending a limited number of African Americans (20,000 to 30,000 families at first) with skills, professions and capital to settle in Liberia. Liberia was the only independent Republic in West Africa at the time and was experiencing a financial crisis and needed funds to pay off a national debt. Garvey realized this was an opportunity to purchase land in Liberia. Garvey offered the money in exchange for settlement of his people in Liberia. Land was to be included in five areas near the Cavella River, Maryland County, Sinoe, Grand Bassa, and Capt Mount. Garvey offered the Liberian Government a Construction Loan, inaugurated in October 1920, and had raised $2 million dollar down payment to the Government of Liberia to buy land for the resettlement of a small number of skilled Blacks.”

As you can imagine, American and European colonizers were not pleased with Garvey’s great awakening idea, and proceeded to undermine it from happening.

Charles D. B. King was the 14th president of Liberia. In 1927 presidential election of Liberia, King received 234,000 votes, despite Liberia having only 15,000 registered voters at the time. Most would agree something fraudulent took place. I’ve listed Charles D. B. King as a key player, but the social construct of Liberia during this time actually is the real issue. Who are Liberians? Liberia was inhabited by the indigenous population as far back as the 12th century according to most scholars. The country is located in West Africa and shares a border with Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast. I am not an expert regarding Liberian history, but from my understanding this region was once known as the “Grain Cost” and was inhabited by the Vai, Loma, Bandi, Mende, Mah, Dan and the Kpelle people. For this literary work, I am not really going to answer who are Liberians; I will however enlighten you to the fact that indigenous Africans already had established cultures and traditions and were in the region, before the country of Liberia was established. I also would like to describe the social makeup of Liberia during this time. In 1821, the year Liberia was founded, Liberia’s settlers consisted of former slaves, mostly from the United States. Some were born free men/women, with ancestral ties to slavery in America. Wikipedia does a great job of describing these people. If you look up the term Americo Liberians, it reads:

“Americo-Liberians are a Liberian ethnicity of African-American, Afro-Caribbean, and liberated African descent. The sister ethnic group of Americo-Liberians are the Sierra Leone Creole people, who shared similar ancestry and related culture.[1] Americo-Liberians trace their ancestry to free-born and formerly enslaved African Americans who immigrated in the 19th century to become the founders of the state of Liberia. They identified there as Americo Liberians. (Some African Americans, following resettlement in Canada, also participated as founding settlers in Sierra Leone and present-day Côte d'Ivoire. Later in Liberia, these African Americans integrated 5,000 liberated Africans called Congos (former slaves from the Congo Basins, who were freed by British and Americans from slave ships after the prohibition of the African slave trade) and 500 Barbadian immigrants into the hegemony. Unlike the Sierra Leone Creoles, Americo-Liberians rarely intermarried with indigenous West Africans. The colonists and their descendants led the political, social, cultural and economic sectors of the country; they ruled the new nation from 19th century until 1980 as a dominant minority. From 1878 to 1980, the Republic of Liberia was a one-party state ruled by the Americo-Liberian-dominated True Whig Party and Masonic Order of Liberia.”

Pretty much what we have here is a population of African descendants acting out the oppression they once endured from Europeans, towards the indigenous population, once arriving on the continent of Africa. Without getting in-depth, there is obviously a conditioning of self-hate that has been learned, a condition formulated from years of being enslaved, brought into Africa by Americo Liberians. I recall learning about light skinned Americo Liberians having conflict with dark skin America Liberians, and there being a split among the two. From what I recall, this split resulted in light skinned Liberians literary capturing many within the indigenous population, and turning them into house servant and domestic workers. People often forget that the initial Liberian settlement began as a settlement fully supported by the American Colonization Society. Many of the supporters of the America Colonization Society were open and known white supremacists. White supremacists like Daniel Webster, John Randolph, Henry Clay, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison advocated for the society, and a few of them even funded it. One would assume these individuals were highly motivated to send blacks back to the continent of Africa, after what took place during the French up-rise, an up-rise by the black population we now call the Haitian Revolution. Just like other European nations, America now had her own colony of Negro’s in Liberia to control and exploit for resources. Individuals like Charles D. B. King were primary candidates to carry out this lopsided relationship that Liberia has always had with America. America’s relationship with Liberia has simply been a relationship of exploitation which emphasis has always been to appease America’s personal self-interests. This should give you a better idea of what Marcus Garvey was getting himself into when he decided to make a settlement agreement with Charles D. B. King and the Liberian government.

Next we have W. E. B. Du Bois. Here you have a man also fighting against the oppression of people of African descent, who happens to embrace a different philosophy and approach. As an advocate of integration and socialism, he often found himself at odds with Marcus Garvey. One would think two men both fighting against racial oppression, would be able to easily unite behind a similar cause, but this was never the case. Their hate for one another even resulted into insults and name calling. “The Slave Rebellion” says the following to describe Du Bois.

The truth of the matter is that Du Bois was working very closely with the U.S. State Department to destroy the UNIA movement in Liberia and had taken steps to hamper the UNIA and worked to undermine Garvey’s Liberian construction and resettlement plan. The United States sent Du Bois to counter Garvey’s settlement plan with an offer from Firestone. The records of the State Department showed that Du Bois was designated on 26 December 1924 Special Representative of the President with rank of envoy extraordinary. It was believed that Du Bois played a crucial role in the Liberian government’s refusal to receive the UNIA delegation. Du Bois made the UNIA seem like a threat to the Americo-Liberian ruling group. He convinced them that Garvey had a secret plan to take over the country.”

It saddens me to think that this behavior still goes on among our people today. So what exactly do we have? We have a conflict between two Pan African leaders resulting in a productive movement being sabotaged. We have the United States Government using W.E. B. Du Bois to act against his own best interest, destroying a sound viable plan that would have not only strengthened Garvey’s movement, but would have strengthened the country of Liberia and given other colonized Africans a blueprint of how to break out of colonization by doing for self, and establishing a strong economic base. For those of you are not familiar with the firestone offer mentioned earlier, pretty much what happened was a heist. “Liberia Past and Present” describes the deal below.

Firestone obtained a one million acre concession for a 99-year period, was granted the exclusive rights upon the lands selected, and became - with only few, small, exceptions - exempted of all present and future taxes. Thus, Firestone acquired virtually unlimited rights over an area equal to 4 per cent of the country’s territory and nearly 10 per cent of what was considered the arable land in the country. Moreover, Firestone lent $ 5 million to the Liberian Government through a wholly-owned and especially for this purpose created subsidiary, the Finance Corporation of Liberia. The $ 5 million Loan put Liberia virtually under control of US administrators and supervisors. An American Financial Advisor appointed by the US Government controlled the Republic’s finance and had to approve the country’s budget every year. The most striking and important consequence of this Loan was that the Liberian Government was now forbidden to contract new loans without the written consent of the Finance Corporation of America, i.e. Firestone.”

Before Du Bois passed away, he acknowledged that he made the biggest mistake of his life by sabotaging Marcus Garvey, and he was right. You would think that modern day leaders in Africa, and leaders of African descent around the globe, would look at the relationship between the two men, and learn from their mistakes. The exploitation and manipulation of the West, and the scenarios of the inner conflict described between these two men, are still currently taking place all throughout the continent of Africa.

This division can also be seen among people of African descent all across the globe.