The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers

Article in the Daily Telegraph

Ethiopia for the Ethiopians

"Logic is logic; that's what I say." So wrote Oliver Wendell Holmes in "The Tale of the Wonderful One-horse Shay."[1] It is what the General African Communities League of America has also been saying. Twenty thousand members of the G.A.C.L. have held a meeting in Madison-square Garden to explain their views. These are quite modest. They will be satisfied if all the white nations with colonial possessions in Africa will kindly clear out of that continent and leave it to the black races to whom it rightfully belongs. Let Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain, and the others haul down their flags and sail away from Africa's torrid shore. Then "a Black Democracy for Ethiopia" will take charge, and, in the language of the country of which many of these Ethiopian gentlemen are citizens, will proceed to make things hum. This demand, as we have admitted, is based on logic, and rests on the great principle of national and racial determination. The blacks outnumber the whites in Africa by some forty millions or more; they are the children of the soil; they have as much right, it is urged, over the land as the Poles have over Poland or the Czecho-Slovaks over Czecho-Slovakia. The G.A.C.L. feels it like that, and at Madison-square Garden it informed an already somewhat pre-occupied world that the black race was determined to suffer no longer. It has hoisted the flag—the Black Flag, we presume—and if all "Ethiopia" is not presently made over to the blameless Ethiopians, the G.A.C.L. will want to know the reason why. Its members are[,] in fact, holding a thirty days' Convention to decide what they are going to do about it. The logic of history does not always lead to the same conclusion as the logic of the class-room. History has never been able to find a time when the negro and negroid races were the real masters of Africa, unless it was in the paleolithic age. Civilisation has always come in from without, and power has been wielded by the brown, or white, or mixed peoples, who have imposed it on the black population. Almost the oldest of human cultures was developed on the banks and in the delta of the Nile; but the ancient Egyptians were not negroes any more than are their modern descendants. Hamitic, Semitic, and "Mediterranean" peoples ruled and civilised Northern Africa and held it till they were in turn subjugated by Aryans or Turanian conquerors. So the tale has gone on through the centuries. WINWOOD READE[2] called the story of Africa "The Martyrdom of Man," which is one way of looking at it. Taking it from another angle, one may say that the negro race, with its many amiable qualities and fine physique, has never proved capable of self-dependence and self-government, except in the primitive tribal form. Beyond that stage it has been "bossed" or trained by peoples, often less agreeable and less kindly, but with higher political aptitudes—Persians, Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Turks, French, English, Portuguese, and others. There is not, and we think there never has been, a great African city which was not planted and colonized from abroad, as Carthage was from Tyre and Alexandria from Greece. Even the mixed races, which have a dash of Semitic or "dark-white" blood, have risen above the negroes, like the Bantu of the East and the Fulani in the West. It is to these aggressive stocks that the negro populations would speedily succumb if European protection and tutelage were withdrawn. We hope that in course of time a "black democracy" may rule over wide territories of "Ethiopia," in addition to that which already exists in Liberia; and it is the declared policy of the Western Powers and the League of Nations to prepare the natives for this consummation. But the training must go on through many generations yet to come, and we hardly think that the youngest of the Madison-[Sq]uare Garden orators will live to see it [com]pleted.
Printed in the Daily Telegraph (London), 4 August 1920.
[1] The correct title of this poem is "The Deacon's Masterpiece, or, the Wonderful One-Hoss Shay," by Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894).
[2] William Winwood Reade (1838–1875), British author and West African explorer, wrote The Martyrdom of Man (London and Edinburgh, 1872) (DNB).