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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersThe Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
The Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
Topic: FreedomTopic: IdentityTopic: InstitutionsTopic: PoliticsTopic: Forward
Topic: Identity
Toolbox Overview: The Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
Resource Menu: Identity
Text 1. Charles W. Chesnutt
Text 2. W.E.B. Du Bois
Text 3. Self Image
Text 4. Public Image
Text 5. Racial Identity
Text 6. History
Text 7. Culture
Text 8. Africa
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Reading Guide
8.  Africa
- Rev. Henry McNeal Turner, "The American Negro and His Fatherland," address, 1895
   Reverend Henry McNeal Turner

In the half century between the antebellum migrations to Liberia and the black nationalist movement of Marcus Garvey, the leader of the "back to Africa" movement was Rev. Henry McNeal Turner, a bishop of the A. M. E. Church. After visiting Africa several times, he urged emigration not only for economic opportunity and freedom from white dominance, but for essential black identity and pride. One cannot have "any hope for a race of people who do not believe they look like God," he asserted in an 1898 editorial entitled "God Is a Negro." "This is one of the reasons we favor African emigration . . . for, as long as we remain among the whites, the Negro will believe that the devil is black and that he (the Negro) favors the devil, . . . and the effects of such a sentiment is contemptuous and degrading." He expounds on this theme in the address here, delivered at the Congress on Africa held in conjunction with the 1895 Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta (where Booker T. Washington delivered his "Atlanta compromise" speech). Total pages: 3.

Note: Although this is the last AFRICA section in the toolbox, the texts in the next three topics contain numerous examples of black Americans' self-referencing to Africa.

Discussion questions
  1. For those who urged emigration at this time, why did Africa promise the only source of Identity for black Americans, the vast majority of whom were born in the United States?
  2. Compare Turner's "back to Africa" campaign with the Exoduster migration to Kansas led by Henry Singleton. What would each man find commendable, and wanting, in the other's program?
  3. Why would Turner's address serve as an apt introduction to the POLITICS section?

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Topic Framing Questions
  •  How did African Americans create personal and group identity after emancipation?
  •  How did the challenge differ for those who were previously enslaved and those who were not?
  •  How is Christianity central to African Americans' search for identity in this period?
  •  How does a culturally disenfranchised group create a "usable past" that guards truth yet nourishes the future?

Toolbox: The Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
Freedom | Identity | Institutions | Politics | Forward

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