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Text Box: Edward Wilmot Blyden 
1832-1912
 
Text Box: Edward Blyden was born on August 3, 1832 in the Virgin Islands in the West Indies, a descendant of Ibos from Nigeria, who were transported to the Caribbean by European slavers.
Edward Wilmot Blyden is said to be the foremost African intellectual of the 19th century. His brilliant career, in both Liberia and Sierra Leone, Edward Wilmot Blyden spanned the fields of religion, education, journalism, politics, and philosophy. He is best remembered as an African patriot whose writings contributed significantly to the rise of Pan-Africanism.
He was a gifted student, and at the age of eighteen, attempted to enrol at a theological college in the United States. But the college would not accept him because he was black, and he experienced many frightful scenes in the U.S. at a time when slavery was still lawful. In 1851, young Blyden emigrated to Liberia with the intention of building a new life in Africa. 
He would remain there for more than thirty years, rising gradually to the highest levels of Liberian society. During his Liberian career, Blyden was a Presbyterian minister, a newspaper editor, a professor of classics, President of Liberia College, Ambassador to Great Britain, Minister of the Interior, and Secretary of State. In 1885, he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Presidency.
But Edward Blyden was also well known in Sierra Leone, where had spent two years (1871-73) as Government Agent to the Interior, leading two official expeditions — one to Falaba and other  to Futa Jallon. In 1885, after his unsuccessful bid for the presidency of Liberia, Blyden based permanently in Freetown. In fact, Blyden was in many ways a greater intellectual force in Sierra Leone than in Liberia. He stirred controversy and lively debate in the Krio community by opposing the indiscriminate emulation of European culture. 
He told the Krios that they were "de-Africanised," scolded them for holding themselves aloof from the upcountry peoples, and advised them to remember always that "you are Africans." After the 1887 publication of his masterpiece, Christianity, Islam, and the Negro Race, some Krios under Blyden's influence began to adopt African  names and even to emulate traditional African dress.
Edward Blyden was one of the most original thinkers of his time, and although some of his ideas seem archaic today, he was a major force for the defence of Africans and of black civilisation. Blyden looked forward to the rise of an independent West African nation, and he encouraged British colonial efforts as a means of uniting this vast area. At the same time, Blyden regarded Africans as having a unique "personality" and a distinctive culture equal to, but different from, that of Europeans. 
He urged the British to allow Africans more autonomy in political and church matters, and argued against the imposition of European culture. As early as 1872, Blyden called for an independent West African University to be run solely by Africans, teaching African languages, cultures, and values. Blyden, though a Christian himself, viewed Muslims as more authentically African, and he repeatedly urged the British authorities to involve Muslim Africans in various ways in their colonial enterprise. Blyden taught himself to speak Arabic, and maintained close relations for many years with the Muslim community in Freetown. In his later years,, he was Director of Mohammedan Education in Sierra Leone.
He was also gifted with amazing oratoral skills which he would readily use to publicly make his points. Blyden believed that posterity would reward those who spoke with their conscience even if what was said was against powerful forces. Therefore, he travelled far and wide giving lectures and undertaking controversial actions. Naturally, for such a controversial figure who preached ideas that were way ahead of his time, he inspired mixed feelings in many. 
Some people hated him with a passion whilst others granted him near-messiah status. He had a deep conviction that men had a responsibility to future generations of the human race to always say and do what their conscience dictated as highlighted in the following words from him during a lecture he delivered The Elements of Permanent Influence: Discourse Delivered at the 15th St. Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C., Sunday, February 16 1890 to a jam packed church in Washington DC on one of several trips he made back to the USA from Africa: 
"There is a talent entrusted to you. It is your duty to call into action the highest forms of your being. It does not matter what your calling may be - whether it be what men call menial or what the world calls honourable - whether it be to speak in the halls of Congress or to sweep out those halls - whether it be to wait upon others or to be waited on— it is the manner of using your faculties that will determine the result- that will determine your true influence in this world and your status in the world to come. Every one should do his part to advance humanity. 
“Each should exert himself to be a helper in progress. Whatever your condition, you do occupy some room in the world; what are you doing to make return for the room you occupy? There are so many of our people who fail to realize their responsibility, who fail to hear the inspiring call of the past and the prophetic call of the future."
Of Blyden, the great Marcus Mosiah Garvey (1887-1940) stated that: "You who do not know anything of your ancestry will do well to read the works of Blyden, one of our historians and chroniclers, who has done so much to retrieve the lost prestige of the race."
When Edward Wilmot Blyden died in February 7, 1912, his funeral was attended by many hundreds of people from throughout the Freetown community, including both Muslims, who bore the coffin, and his fellow Christians. Later generations of black intellectuals, in both Africa and America, have looked to Edward Blyden for inspiration in the areas of Pan-Africanism and cultural nationalism.
"Let me forever be discarded by the Black race, and let me be condemned by the White, if I strive not with all my powers, if I put not forth all my energies to bring respect and dignity to the African race."
-Dr. Edward Wilmot Blyden
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Selected bibliography is prepared by Eluemuno-Chukuemeka R. Blyden.
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E.W. Blyden: Selected Bibliography
This short bibliography deals with Blyden's Pan-African ideas and their influence on other African, Caribbean and American leaders. References to Blyden or his influence can be found in the articles and books listed here. Some of his writings that were influential or that relate to some of the experiences and concepts that influenced him are also included. We encourage you to contribute materials - especially if you are aware of publications in other languages that reference Blyden’s life and work. Send your email with references or information to blyden@bio.vu.nl
* Aptheker, Herbert, ed. W.E.B. DuBois, The Correspondence of W.E.B. Dubois: Selections, 1877-1934, Vol. 1 Amherst, Mass: University of Massachusetts Press, 1973.
* Assensoh, A.B., Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana: His Formative Years and the Shaping of his Nationalism and Pan-Africanism (1935-1948), Ann Arbor: University Microfilms
* Azikiwe, Nnamdi, Renascent Africa, Humanities Press, New York.
* Berry, Mary Frances & John W. Blassingame Long Memory: The Black Experience in America (Oxford Univ. Press, NY 1982)
* Blyden, E. W., Africa for the Africans, <<African Repository>>, Washington, January, 1872.
* Blyden, E. W., African Life and Customs, London, C.M. Phillips, 1908.
* Blyden, E. W., West Africa Before Europe, London, C.M. Phillips, 1905.
* Blyden, E. W., The Call of Providence to the Descendants of Africa in America. A Discourse Delivered to Coloured Congregations in the Cities of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Harrisburg, during the Summer of 1862, <<Liberia's Offering>>, New York, 1862.
* Blyden, E. W., Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race, London, W.B. Whittingham & Co., 1887; 2nd Edition1888; 3rd Edition 1967 University of Edinburgh Press.
* Blyden, E. W, The Elements of Permanent Influence: Discourse Delivered at the 15th St. Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C., Sunday, February 16 1890 Washington. R. L. Pedleton, printer, 1890.
* Blyden, E. W., Liberia as a Means, Not an End. Liberian Independence Oration jJuly 26, 1867; African Repository, Washington. November, 1867.
* Blyden, E. W., The Negro in Ancient History, Liberia: Past, Present, and Future, Washington, M'Gill & Witherow Printer, <<Methodist Quarterly Review>>, January,
* Blyden, E. W., The Origin and Purpose of African Colonization. A Discourse Delivered at the 66th Anniversary of the American Colonization Society, Washington, D. C., January 14, 1883, Washington, 1883.
* Blyden, E. W., A Vindication of the African Race; Being a Brief Examination of the Arguments in Favor of African Inferiority (First Published in Liberia, in August, 1857),<<Liberia's Offering>>, New York, 1862.
* Blyden, E. W, Report on the Falaba Expedition 1872. Addressed to His Excellency Governor J. Pope Hennessy, C.M.G. by E. W. Blyden M.A. Published by authority Freetown, Sierra Leone. Printed at the Government office., 1872.
* Blyden, E. W, Liberia at the American Centennial. << Methodist Quarterly Review>>, July, 1877.
* Blyden, E. W., America in Africa, Christian Advocate I., July 28, 1898, II August 4, 1898.
* Blyden, E. W, The Negro in the United States, A.M.E. Church Review, Jan. 1900.
* Blake, Cecil A., A Critical introduction to Edward Wilmot Blyden's American Discourses on Exodus. 1861-1890, University of Wisconsin, 1976, book, 220p, Ph.D. Dissertation
* Clarke, John Henrik, Notes for an African World Revolution: Africans at the Crossroads, Africa World Press, Trenton, NJ 1991.
* Cromwell, John W., The Negro in American History The American Negro Academy, Washington, 1914.
* Davidson, Basil, African Civilization Revisited: From Antiquity to Modern Times, Africa World Press Inc., NJ, 1991.
* Drake, St. Clair , The Black Diaspora in Pan-African Perspective, The Black Scholar, Vol. 7, Number 1, Sept. 1975.
* Echruo, Michael J. "Edward W. Blyden, W.E.B Dubois and the `color complex'" in The Journal of Modern African Studies, Dec 1992, v. 30, #4
* Esedebe, P. Olisanwuche, Pan-Africanism: The Idea and Movement, 1776-1963, Howard University Press, Washington, DC 1982.
* Foner, Philip S. - History of Black Americans, Vol 2, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT 1975.
* Frenkel, M.Y. , Edward Blyden and American Nationalism Moscow: Africa Institute, Academy of Sciences, 1972.
* Fleming, Beatrice J., Distinguished Negroes Abroad, Washington D.C., Associated Publishers, 1946.
* Hayford, Casely J.E., Ethiopia Unbound: Studies in Race Emancipation ,London, 1911 repr. London : Frank Cass, 1969.
* Hill, H.C. and Martin Kilson, eds. American Leaders on Africa from the 1800s to the 1950s., London, 1969.
* Holden, E., Blyden of Liberia: An Account of the Life and Labours of Edward Wilmot Blyden, LL.D. As Recorded in Letters and Print. Vantage Press, New York, 1966.
* Jackson, John G, Christianity Before Christ, The Blyden Society, New York, 1938.
* James, C.L.R., American Civilization, Blackwell Publishers, 1993, PP 299.
* July, Robert W., A History of the African People: Edward Blyden Creates A Philosophy of African Nationalism, Charles Scribners, Sons, New York, 1980.
* Katagoshina, L.T., The Role of E.W. Blyden in the Development of African Contacts with the Afro-American Diaspora ,Russian Academy of Sciences, Nauka Publishers.
* Lewis, Rupert, Marcus Garvey: Anti-Colonial Champion Africa World Press, 1988, NJ.
* Lynch, H.R. ed., Selected Letters of Edward Wilmot Blyden, New York, KTO Press, 1978.
* Lynch, Hollis R, Black Spokesman. Selected Published Writings of Edward Wilmot Blyden., London : F.Cass, 1971.
* Lynch, Hollis R., Edward Wilmot Blyden : Pan Negro Patriot London: Oxford University Press, 1967.
*Livingstone, Thomas W.,., Education and Race :A Biography of Edward Wilmot Blyden San Francisco, Glendessary Press, 1975.
*Magubane, Bernard The Ties that Bind: African American Consciousness of Africa, Africa World Press, Trenton, NJ 1987
* Moses, Wilson Jeremiah The Golden Age of Black Nationalism 1850-1925, Oxford University Press 1978.
* Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Decolonising the Mind: The politics of language in African Literature, James Curry Ltd., London, Heinemann Kenya, Nairobi, 1986.
* Redkey, Edwin S., Black Exodus, Black Nationalist and Back to Africa Movements, 1890-1910 , New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969.
* Sierra Leone Independence Movement The Sierra Leone Independence Movement (S.L.I.M.) Constitution and Charter . (Microfilm). African Imprint Library Services, Bedford, NY, 1973
*Skinner, Elliott P. - African Americans and U.S. Policy toward Africa: in defence of Black nationality, 1850-1924 (Howard Univeristy Press, Washington 1992)
* Sosnovsky, N. A., E. W. Blyden and the Formation of Modern Youth Subculture of the African Diaspora, Moscow, Russian Academy of Sciences, Nauka Publishers.
* West, Richard, Back to Africa, Holt, Rinehart and Winston Inc., 1970.
* Wilson, Henry S. , Abroad in America: Visitors to a New Nation 1776-1976, National Portrait Gallery/ Smithsonian Institution, Addison-Wesley, 1976.
* White, Timothy, Catch A Fire : The Life of Bob Marley, Henry Holt and Co., New York, 1989.
Copyright 1995 Eluemuno-Chukuemeka R. Blyden. E-mail: blyden@bio.vu.nl    
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