Edward wilmot blyden

3 de agosto de 1832

The Liberian nationalist Edward W. Blyden was born on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas. He was the son of free blacks—Romeo, a tailor, and Judith, a schoolteacher—and was the third of seven children. As early as 1842, while in Porto Bello, Venezuela, he began to develop a facility with language. He also became more acutely aware that the majority of people of African descent in the Americas were slaves, and this affected the future course of his life. Upon returning to St. Thomas, Blyden attended school and completed a five-year apprenticeship as a tailor. He grew interested in becoming a minister after meeting a Dutch Reformed minister, Rev. John P. Knox.

Knox was instrumental in Blyden's decision to come to the United States in 1850 and seek admission to Rutgers Theological College. Blyden was prevented from entering the school, however, because of his race. This experience, coupled with his devotion to further the black struggle, led him to support the African colonization movement. Less than a year after entering the United States, Blyden emigrated to Liberia with the support of members of the American Colonization Society (ACS).

Once in Liberia, Blyden entered school and prepared himself for a leadership role. His education was enhanced by travels to Europe, the Middle East, and throughout Africa. By 1858 he had been ordained a Presbyterian minister and accepted a position as principal of a high school in Liberia. He also served as a government correspondent and editor for the government newspaper, the Liberian Herald, for a year. His most important appointment was from 1880 to 1884 as president of Liberia College, which was overseen by a board of trustees in Boston and New York.

While Blyden was unable to receive all the formal educational training he hoped for, his vision for Liberia and for all people of African descent was defined in his writings. He argued that the African race had made significant contributions to human civilization and that African cultural institutions and customs should be preserved. He expressed the view that Islam had served Africa better than Christianity had, but that there was much for Africa to learn from the West. The essence of Blyden's thoughts was contained in his books Hope for Africa (1861) Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race (1887), y African Life and Customs (1908). A major portion of his writings focused on the colonization of blacks in Liberia. He envisioned that, with the emigration of highly educated blacks, Liberia could reach its full potential and become an example of the capabilities of the African race to the world.

Blyden was a major supporter of the ACS, which had founded Liberia in 1821. This organization was instrumental in his own emergence within Liberia and in the international community. Blyden wrote many articles for the ACS journal, the African Repository, and he regularly corresponded with the group's officials. He also made numerous visits to the United States on behalf of the ACS to urge educated blacks to emigrate. Throughout his lifetime, Blyden held the view that blacks could never be wholly accepted as equals in America. His emigrationist appeals, however, fell primarily on deaf ears, and Blyden and the ACS were on occasion forced to look for emigrants to Liberia in the Caribbean.

Much of Blyden's life was spent in pursuit of political goals. After being appointed Liberia's secretary of state in 1864 (he served until 1866), Blyden used this position to encourage the emigration of "genuine blacks," rather than mulattoes, to Liberia. In 1871 he left the country after narrowly escaping being lynched in an atmosphere of political instability caused by warring factions, and because of his opposition to mulatto rule and control within Liberia. He spent this time in Sierra Leone, returning to Liberia in 1873. After his return, Blyden continued traveling to the United States to advocate emigration. He resumed his role as an educator and was appointed minister of the interior and secretary of education in 1880. He also made an unsuccessful attempt to become Liberia's president in 1885.

After 1885, Blyden focused much of his attention on the issue of West African unity, which had been initiated while he was in Sierra Leone. He used his diplomatic positions in London and Paris to advance this agenda. However, the unity theme was clouded by his belief that European colonialism in Africa could be positive for development. He believed that the climate would prevent Europeans from settling in Africa on a permanent basis.

Prior to his death in Sierra Leone, Blyden was in poor health and received a moderate pension, at the instruction of the colonial secretary, from the governors of Sierra Leone, Lagos, and the Gold Coast. While his emigrationist vision for Liberia did not succeed as he had hoped, his racial fervor made him a symbolic figure for future generations of nationalists.

Véase también Nationalism in the United States in the Nineteenth Century; Pan-Africanism


Lynch, Holls R. Edward Wilmot Blyden, Pan-Negro Patriot, 1832-1912. Londres: Oxford University Press, 1967.

Lynch, Holls R., ed. Selected Letters of Edward Wilmot Blyden. Millwood, N.Y.: KTO Press, 1978.

layn saint-louis (1996)