EDWARD WILMOT BLYDEN: IGBO HERITAGE

August 25, 2017

Edward Wilmot Blyden [pictured 1851 by Anson, Rufus] (3 August 1832 – 7 February 1912) was a writer and politician who described both his parents as being of complete Igbo ancestry

 

As the father of pan-Africanism, he was an educator, writer, diplomat, and politician after settling in Liberia and afterwards Sierra Leone. Born in the Virgin Islands in the West Indies, he joined the free black immigrants from the United States who migrated to the region. He taught for five years in the British West African colony of Sierra Leone in the early 20th century. His writings on pan-Africanism were influential in both colonies. In Liberia, Edward Wilmot Blyden was an advocate for indigenous African people and their culture and was largely opposed to the encroachment and domination of Western culture through the small ruling Americo-Liberian population made up of former slaves and descendants of ex-slaves from the Caribbean and United States resettled on the coastal areas of Liberia. The Americo-Liberians largely saw Western civilisation as superior to the indigenous African cultures, Blyden sought to integrate the two populations in Liberia leading him to campaign for the independent state to be taken under Britain as a protectorate in the belief that the British would not interfere in the indigenous societies of the hinterlands as he believed the Americo-Liberains would, ultimately the plan to put Liberia under British governance gave way leading to his expulsion to Sierra Leone where he spent his last days. It was through these actions and the essays he made on African identity that he became known as the 'father of pan-Africanism', in his case he was an African culturalist, decades after his lifetime, his ideas, however, were realised in the form of African ethnic nationalism.

 

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