Remembering Edward Wilmot Blyden ( 1832-1912) A Great Pan-Africanist

thBy Sainey  Faye
August 3, 1832…….On this date, one of the giants and proponents of Pan-Africanism was born; in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.At an early age of 18 years, he left for the U.S.A. in 1850 to further studies in the field of theological seminary; but was turned down due to his race and racism – prevalent during those times.Frustrated, but not discouraged he left that year and headed home to Liberia. Liberia by then had just got its political Independence in 1847, three years earlier; and had not gotten its house in order yet.With Sierra Leone next door, resettlement of African slaves was beginning to take hold; in both countries under the auspices of the ACS ( American Colonization Society ).The ACS advocated and helped the return of free African slaves in America back to Africa, by carving up a colony in 1821-1822 and called it Liberia.It was to be a haven for all Freedmen.

Edward Wilmot Blydens parents were free Africans amongst many free slaves in the Islands; and came from the Ibo or Igbos of Nigeria.He went to Liberia and immediately got involved in all aspects of its development. He later married the niece of the Vice President Hilary Yates, and they had 3 children. He also lived and worked in Sierra Leone, and had children there also with an African American from Louisiana who was a grand daughter of the President James Spriggs-Payne.He also became president of Liberia College, one of the earlier institutions then.

James S. Payne was the 4th President Of Liberia from 1868-1870, and also became the 8th President from  1876-1878.President Payne himself was also born in Richmond Virginia, in the U.S.A. by former slaves; thus making him the first President not born in Africa to rule Liberia. He was one of the key architects who helped break the links or ties the ACS had on this state – Independent sovereign Liberia.Both Liberia and Sierra Leone were home to Edward Wilmot Blyden,but Sierra Leone was where he stayed longer and build a larger family.

Her offsprings today are numerous, and the well known journalist, and owner of one of the newspapers – ‘The Awareness Times’ of Sierra Leone and her siblings are great grand children of him.He died in Free Town, Sierra Leone on February 7, 1912 at age 79 and was buried at the Racecourse cemetery, and has a statue in the city of Free Town itself.

He was one of first advocates for Africans all over in the diaspora of returning back home – to Africa the Motherland, and help develop it to its fullest potential, avoiding futile, and useless warfare and bad governance. Some call him one of the greatest giants and founders of Pan-Africanism, and rightly so; he inspired both Marcus Garvey and George Padmore; the latter named her only daughter after him.He wrote four books on Africa and her predicament, and her terrible condition in relation to slavery and bondage.

It is interesting to note that when he died, the Muslims laid a head stone on his grave; and the colonial administration allowed for his statue elsewhere in the city of Free Town. What a great man who needs to be known and remembered as one of the architects, and early Freedom Fighters for Africans, at home and abroad in the Diaspora.


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