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(1914) John Edward Bruce, “Sons of Africa”

 

In 1913, 57-year-old John Edward Bruce, one of the leading black nationalist figures in the United States, founded the Loyal Order of the Sons of Africa with the goal of freeing the African continent from colonialism and unifying its people.  In the speech below, given at an undisclosed location, Bruce describes the organization.

Gentlemen:

About a year ago, I conceived the idea of organizing a society of Black and Colored men, to be known as the “Sons of Africa” and to be international in scope and to embrace in its membership men of all the darker races who have a grievance of any sort against the race which is now dominating the earth and reaping where it has not sown. In talking the matter over with Dr. Martin our host, he suggested, and I think well of the suggestion that we make the organization an order and enjoin upon the members secrecy. The psychological moment has I believe arrived for Negroes and colored men the wide world over to get together and to fight for every right with all our might. We must organize to secure uniformity of utterance and action among the darker races and to meet organized wrong with intelligently organized resistance.

The Slogan of the patriots of the American Revolution was:

Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty. The black and colored races can well afford to adopt it as their slogan for the liberties of both the wide world over were never more endangered by the grasping nations of the world than at the present time. The settled policy of the dominant race for the past one hundred years or more has been, and still is, to dominate and control all other races who wear “the shadowed livery of the burnished sun!” India, Africa, the West Indian Islands, the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico. And wherever the white man has been permitted or has forcibly inserted the thin edge of the wedge he has left a withering blight all along his pathway. His consuming desire is to pose as a world power at the sacrifice of the rights and interests of the so-called backward races. His cupidity and avarice have made him impervious to ordinary criticism of his dishonest methods, and it now becomes necessary for those ones who have been the victims of his greed and impulse to organize for self-protection in order to meet organized wrong with organized resistance intelligently directed and without the accompaniment of a Brass Band. This is, as I believe, the Psychological moment for Negroes all over the world to begin to touch elbows, exchange ideas and formulate plans for mutual protection for practical, racial and religious advantage. We are clearly within our rights in seeking here to found the Loyal Order of the Sons of Africa to bear a part in the revolution of ideas which usually precedes a resort to physical force when reason and argument fail. The battle of the darker races is an intellectual one, and with good generals in command of the forces which are to do battle—the victory is all the more certain. An army divided is an army defeated. The reasons which we think make necessary such an organization as we have proposed may be briefly stated as follows: (1) the increase of race prejudice in Europe and America, (2) the denial of equal opportunities to black and colored men in countries supposedly their own but which have been preempted by cajolery or force by white men, (3) the growing tendency of white men to immunize the Negro influence in governmental affairs in this and in other countries by diplomacy, or brute force according to the exigencies of the case. (4) the deceit practiced by white men upon Negroes their peers in culture and character with whom they palter in a double sense to compass their reprehensive and dishonorable ends, (5) We all know what a treacherous biped the white man is and how intensely selfish and hypocritical he is therefore it behooves us to play the game he is playing, but upon a loftier plane in the hope of saving to a future generation of black the heritage bequeathed to us by our fathers. Gentlemen the meeting is now open for full and free discussion.

Sources:

Adelaide Cromwell Hill and Martin Kilson eds. Apropos of Africa: Sentiments of Negro American Leaders on Africa from the 1800s to the 1950s (London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd., 1969).
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